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How to Replace Important Documents That Are Lost or Missing

Replacing important documents that are destroyed, lost, or stolen is easy once you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for several important documents.

Birth Certificates

If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born. 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 VIN (vehicle identification number). 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. 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 that the online service is not available, you’ll need to fill out form SS-5 print a copy and take it in or mail it to your nearby Social Security office along with a number of evidence documents that are listed on this form. For more information call 800-772-1213 or locate the Social Security office that serves your area.

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 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 fill out and mail in IRS form 4506. Download the form or call 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a copy. The cost is $43 for each return requested.


You canapply 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. The fee is $145.

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Seniors.

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