Many businesses are moving towards paperless document management solutions in today's digital age. However, companies must still maintain many sensitive documents in hard copy form. These include legal documents, financial statements, personnel files, medical records, insurance policies, and more. When it comes time to dispose of these documents, knowing which ones not to shred is essential.

Legal Documents

Legal documents, such as contracts, deeds, and patents, should never be shredded. These documents may need to be referenced in the future and can serve as evidence in legal disputes. In some cases, they may also have original signatures or notary seals that could be important for authentication purposes.

Financial Documents

Financial documents, including bank statements, invoices, and receipts, should be kept for a certain period before disposal. It can help by tracking finances and can serve as evidence in case of an audit. Financial documents should be kept for at least six years; some may need to be stored longer.

Tax-Related Documents

Tax-related documents, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and tax returns, should be kept for at least seven years. These documents can be used as evidence in case of an audit and may be needed to support future tax filings. Keeping these documents in a secure location is essential to protect sensitive information such as social security numbers.

Medical Documents

Medical documents, including medical histories, insurance claims, and doctor's notes, should never be shredded. These documents are protected by privacy laws and should be kept confidential. Medical records may need to be held indefinitely, especially for chronic illnesses or conditions.

Personnel Files

Personnel files, including performance evaluations, disciplinary records, and employment contracts, should be kept for the duration of the team member's tenure and a specific time after their departure. Documents may be needed for reference in the future and can serve as evidence in legal disputes.

Insurance Policies

Everyone should keep insurance policies for the duration of the policy and for a certain period after the policy has expired. Doing so can help in case of future claims or disputes.

Best Practices for Document Disposal

When disposing of sensitive documents, it is crucial to do so securely. Best practices can include using a professional document destruction service or shredding the documents in-house with a high-security shredder. Maintaining a paper trail of document disposal is also important to provide evidence of proper disposal.

Document Retention Guidelines

Businesses need clear guidelines on how long to keep important documents. These guidelines can vary depending on the type of document and legal requirements. For example, tax-related documents should be kept for at least seven years, while medical records may need to be stored indefinitely. Businesses should consult with legal counsel or document management experts to ensure compliance with retention guidelines.

Protecting sensitive business documents is essential for maintaining security and privacy. Knowing which documents not to shred and following best practices for document disposal can help prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. Lonestar Document Management Solutions offers various services for businesses seeking document management solutions to help manage and protect vital business documents.