How to Replace Vital Documents

You are currently viewing How to Replace Vital Documents

Replacing Lost Vital Documents: Essential Steps and Tips

Maybe you’ve not always been very organized. Maybe documents got lost in a move or fire. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself needing to replace vital documents such as a birth certificate or passport, don’t despair! It can be done.

Replacing Your Social Security Card

Providing your social security number is often sufficient, but there are times when you may still have to show the actual card. For example, you may be asked to present it when starting a new job, registering for college classes, or applying for Medicaid.

You can get an original Social Security card or a replacement card if yours is lost or stolen online. You can use this option if you:

  • Are a U.S. citizen age 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address
  • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card and
  • Have a driver’s license or a state-issued identification card from a participating state. (Some states do not participate, so check to see if your state is one of them.)

If you cannot apply online, visit your local social security office. You must complete a one-page application and present an original identifying document. Acceptable documents include a driver’s license, passport, and marriage or divorce record. If you were born outside the U.S., you must prove citizenship or lawful alien status. Photocopies are not accepted.

There is no charge for a new card, and the application process is pretty quick. However, you will not receive the new card on the same day. It will be mailed to you within two weeks. If you need something more quickly, ask for a printout on their letterhead verifying the replacement.

vital document

Replacing Birth Certificates

Birth certificates (for you or your children) are required to get a passport, driver’s license, or marriage license and apply for private and government benefits.

You may think you can obtain a birth certificate from the hospital where you were born, but that’s often the stricter route to success. Instead, start with the vital records office in that state/county.

They will ask you to provide some information. This may include name, birth gender, parents’ names, place of birth, and birth date. You may also be asked to provide a photo I.D. or other form of verification. Fees for a birth certificate vary, so be sure to ask.


In addition to international travel, passports will be required in the U.S. for domestic flights and to enter U.S. federal buildings such as courthouses. (You may also use a REAL ID except for international flights.) Real ID has been pushed back until May 7, 2025, due to the coronavirus pandemic; find out more here.

If you need to replace your unexpired passport (lost or stolen), report the loss or theft to the U.S. State Department immediately. You can do this online using Form DS-64, by phone via a toll-free number, or by mail. Once reported, your lost or stolen passport is immediately invalidated to prevent misuse. You must apply for a new passport in person using Form DS-11. The State Department provides guidance based on how urgently you need the replacement.

Renewals of current passports can be done by mail. You will need to provide several documents to replace your passport: proof of citizenship, proof of identity, two passport photos, and completed application forms. Fees vary based on the type of passport, so look at the fee schedule before you go.

Typical replacements take ten to thirteen weeks. Try to plan accordingly. For an additional fee, they can be expedited to two weeks.

vital documents

Tax Returns

When applying for a mortgage or other loan, you may be asked to provide tax returns for the prior two years. 

If you use tax software such as TurboTax, you should be able to log in and download/print anything you need. If you have a tax professional, they likely have copies. In the event that neither of these is true, you can request a copy from the IRS through their online portal, where you’ll need to verify your identity with a photo I.D. If online access isn’t possible, you can request a transcript by mail using the address from your most recent tax return; expect it to arrive within 5-10 days. Another option is to call the IRS’s automated phone service at 800-908-9946. Always exercise caution to avoid phishing scams, as the IRS will never initiate contact via email or text to request personal information.

School Transcripts

You may need a transcript if you’re applying to grad school or taking specific board exams.

Contact the school you graduated from. Each school has different processing times, requirements, and fees for providing them. Some may even send them directly to the requesting school or board. You can also receive a copy of your transcript by contacting your state department of education.

College Diploma

Legally speaking, there’s probably no reason you need this. But if you want a copy of your diploma, contact your college’s alumni department. They will tell you the requirements and fees for your school or direct you to someone who can. If you need help finding your high school diploma, try this link.

vital document

Property Deed

The deed proves you own the property and is an important document. You’ll need it if you’re selling or refinancing your home, and it is also necessary if you’re transferring the title for estate planning.

The first place to start is with the lawyer or closing company that handled the transaction when you bought your home. If they don’t have one or are no longer in business, check with the county clerk’s office. If they can’t assist you, you can hire a title company to search for you.

Provide the tax map, I.D. number, and street address to expedite the process. If you make the request yourself, there’s usually no fee. Title search companies do charge a fee, so get several quotes.

Depending on where you live, you may also be able to access this information online. Check with your clerk’s office for more details about your area. It usually takes about 10 – 15 days to get the requested copy.

Car Title

If you’re selling your vehicle, you’ll need to have the title to transfer ownership. 

You can easily obtain a copy of your car’s title through your state’s DMV. You will need to provide your I.D., VIN (vehicle identification number), and registration information, as well as pay a fee, which varies by state. Depending on where you live, it may take as little as four days or much longer.

Have you ever had to request any of these vital documents? How was the process for you? Check out this post for tips on setting up a filing system and storing vital documents and records.

Be the First to Know: Sign Up

Get our newsletter filled with practical tips on personal finance, organizing, and productivity. Plus, reviews of our favorite podcast episodes and books. 🌟 Sign Up for Our Newsletter 🌟 for your gateway to a more organized and financially savvy lifestyle.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.