What goes in your safe deposit box is not the question to ask – the question should be what not to put in a safe deposit box.
I’d like to share a story with you. In my days as a banker, I heard a loud banging on the front door of the branch just after 4:00 p.m. on a Friday evening. The bank had already closed, and the beginning of a long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day was starting.
As I approached the door, I saw three distraught women. Through the glass door, I asked how I could help.
The family needed passports from a safe deposit box because their father passed away outside of the United States. They begged, and they pleaded, but there was nothing I could do. Here is why.
The vault was closed. Since it was armed with a time-sensitive alarm system, I could not manually disarm the system. The vault was set to be disarmed the following Tuesday morning, due to the long holiday weekend.
My heart broke for this family. Their plea almost brought me to tears.
So the moral of the story is to not keep documents in a safe deposit box that you may need in an emergency. Banks are not open 24/7, and that means neither is access to the contents of your safe deposit box. Also, your safe deposit box has size limitations. Therefore, it only holds so much. Also, keep in mind that safe deposit boxes are sealed when the bank receives a death notice for one of their customers.
Here are some examples of documents you should not keep in a safe deposit box:
- Passport, Visa and Citizenship documents
- Birth, Adoption and Marriage Certificates
- Death Certificate
- Important Documents such as; Will, Advanced Directives and Durable
- Power of Attorney
- Child Care & Custody Agreement and
- Divorce Decree
- Deed, Title and Insurance for your home and auto
- Emergency Cash
- Military Records
- Jewelry you do not wear all the time
On the other hand, you need to safely and securely store your important documents and information. This is where a fireproof, water-resistant safe is valuable.
Choose the size of the safe based on need and space. Safes are available from retailers such as Home Depot, SentrySafe and Costco. Costco has a wide selection of fireproof safes but not water-resistant. You may also purchase a safe from your local locksmith who will install and attach it to your alarm system.
Similar to a safe deposit box, inventory the items for your home safe. Give access information to a trusted friend, family member or your executor.
You may choose to store valuables such as jewelry, coins, stamp collections or other collectibles, in your safe deposit box. If so, add a rider to your homeowners or rental insurance policy. Why? Because as State Farm, a major insurance provider of all types of insurance coverage, says, ‘“never” happens all the time.
Use our Estate Planning Checklist to identify and gather your important documents. If you lack some of these important documents, consider seeing an estate attorney or log onto CDC to retrieve documents such as a birth or marriage certificate. Put our Personal Records Retention List to work to decide what documents to keep and what to toss.
Once you fill your safe deposit box or safe with your important documents and make an itemized list of the contents, enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing what you need is at your fingertips.