Victims of the recent California wildfires might need to reconstruct records to prove their loss. Doing this may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. Here are 12 things you can do to help reconstruct records after disaster strikes:

  1. Obtain free tax return transcripts by using the Get Transcript tool on, or use their smartphone with the IRS2Go mobile phone app. They can also call 800-908-9946 to order them by phone.
  2. Take photographs or videos as soon after the disaster as possible to establish the extent of the damage.
  3. Contact your title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of your home to get copies of appropriate documents.
  4. If you are a homeowner, review your insurance policy as the policy usually lists the value of a building to establish a base figure for replacement.
  5. If you have made improvements to your home, contact the contractors who did the work to see if records are available. If possible, get statements from the contractors to verify the work and cost. You can also get written accounts from friends and relatives who saw the house before and after any improvements.
  6. For inherited property, check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, you can contact the attorney who handled the trust.
  7. When no other records are available, check the county assessor’s office for old records that might address the value of the property.
  8. There are several resources that can help someone determine the current fair-market value of most cars on the road. These resources are all available online and at most libraries:
    • Kelley’s Blue Book
    • National Automobile Dealers Association
    • Edmunds
  9. Look on their mobile phone for pictures that show the damaged property before the disaster.
  10. Support the valuation of property with photographs, videos, canceled checks, receipts, or other evidence. You might be able to collect these from undamaged property, your vehicles, or friends and relatives.
  11. If you bought items using a credit card or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank for past statements.
  12. If you don’t have photographs or videos of your property, a simple method to help remember what items you lost is to sketch pictures of each room that was impacted.