Replacing Lost Documents

stack of old documents to represent replacing lost documents

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By JIM MILLER

(SAVVY SENIOR) Replacing important documents that are destroyed, lost, or stolen is pretty easy once you know where to turn. 

Birth certificates

If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born (see CDC.gov/nchs/w2w/for contact information). This office will give you specific instructions on what you need to do to order a certified copy and what it will cost you—usually between $10 and $30.

Car titles

Most states offer replacements through a local department of motor vehicles office. You’ll need to complete a replacement title application form and pay the application fee, which varies by state. You’ll also need to show ID and proof that you own the car, such as your vehicle registration or your license-plate number and Vehicle IdentificationNumber (VIN). To get an application, go to DMV.org, pick your state, and print it or fill it out on the site. 

Property Deed

To access your house deed, contact your county clerk’s office, where deeds are usually recorded—you may be charged a small fee to get a copy. 

Marriage Certificate

Contact the vital records office of the state you were married in to order a copy (see CDC.gov/nchs/w2w/). You’ll need to provide full names for you and your spouse, the date of your wedding, and the city or town where the wedding was performed. Fees range from $10 to $30. 

Social Security Cards

In most states (except in Alabama, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and West Virginia), you can request a replacement Social Security card online for free at SSA.gov/myaccount. 

If you live in a state where the online service is unavailable, you’ll need to complete form SS-5. Take your completed form in or mail it to your nearby Social Security office along with a number of evidence documents listed on this form. For more information or to locate the Social Security office that serves your area, call 800-772-1213 or see SSA.gov/locator.

Medicare Cards

If you are enrolled in original Medicare, you can replace a lost or damaged Medicare card by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227, or by logging into your MyMedicare.gov account. If, however, you get Medicare health or drug benefits from a Medicare Advantage Plan, such as an HMO, PPO, or PDP, you’ll need to call your plan to get your card replaced.

COVID-19 Vaccination Card

Your first step is to go back to your vaccination site and see if they’ll give you a replacement. Bring an ID, and try to recall the date you were vaccinated. If that’s not feasible, contact your state health department immunization information system (see CDC.gov/vaccines/programs/iis/contacts-locate-records.html) where you should be able to print out a replacement sheet. 

Tax Returns

To get copies of old tax returns start with your tax preparer, who usually keeps copies of your returns on file. You can also get copies of federal returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service. You’ll need to complete and mail in IRS form 4506. To download this form, visit IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf or call 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a copy. The cost is $43 for each return requested.

Passports

You can apply for a replacement passport at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Many post offices, public libraries, and local government offices serve as such facilities. You can search for the nearest authorized facility at iafdb.travel.state.gov. The fee is $145. MSN


Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of the book, The Savvy Senior.

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