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Friday August 12, 2022

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Replace Important Documents

Can you tell me what I need to do to replace a variety of important documents? Our house burned down a few months ago and we lost everything including our home property deed, car titles, old tax returns, Social Security, Medicare and vaccination records, birth certificates, marriage license and passports.

I am very sorry for your loss, but you will be relieved to know that replacing important documents that are destroyed, lost or stolen is pretty easy once you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for each document you mentioned.

Birth certificates: If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born. See for contact information. This office will give you specific instructions on what you need to do to order a certified copy. Usually, the cost is between $10 and $30 for a certified copy.

Car titles: Most states offer replacements through a local department of motor vehicles office. You will need to complete a replacement title application form and pay the application fee, which varies by state. You will also need to show ID and proof that you own the car, such as your vehicle registration or your license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN). Contact your state department of motor vehicles to get an application.

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 You will 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, and you may be required to prove you are authorized to receive a certified copy.

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

If you live in a state where the online service is not available, you will need to fill out form SS-5 (visit to print a copy) and take it in or mail it to your nearby Social Security office along with any evidentiary documents that are listed on this form. For more information or to locate the Social Security office that serves your area, call 800-772-1213 or see

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 account. If you get Medicare health or drug benefits from a Medicare Advantage Plan, such as an HMO, PPO or PDP, you will need to call your plan to get your card replaced.

Vaccination records: Your first step is to go back to your doctor's office or vaccination site and see if they have copies of the records you need. If you are visiting a site, bring an ID and try to recall any dates when you were vaccinated. If that is not feasible, contact your state health department immunization information system (visit where you may be able to print out replacements.

Tax returns: To get copies of old tax returns, start with your tax preparer. Professionals usually keep copies of client returns on file for a few years. You can also get copies of federal returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service. You will need to fill out and mail in IRS form 4506. Call 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a copy or download the form at The cost is $43 for each return requested. You may be able to request state tax returns, availability may vary.

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 The fee is $145.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 13, 2021
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