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What Is Safe For You To Put Into A Safe Deposit Box?

Do you have a safe deposit box at your bank? That’s a good idea if you need a secure place to store valuables and important papers. But be aware that a safe deposit box isn’t the best place for everything.

What should you keep in the box? Unless you are an international spy needing multiple passports, currencies and firearms, mostly they are items you can’t afford to lose or that would be extremely difficult to replace. This includes birth certificates, marriage certificates, a list of your insurance policies (usually, if you have the company name, insured and policy number, these can easily be replaced), trust and IRA documents, property deeds, rare coins, jewelry, stock or bond certificates, foreign currencies, treasured family photos, and other heirlooms. Don’t worry about privacy because the bank can’t snoop in its boxes. In fact, when you place items in the box, you can do so behind closed doors.

What should you keep out of the box? Basically everything else, including your will and related estate-planning documents. Depending on state law, a court order may be required to unseal the box if the owner dies. It’s better to keep your will in a fire-proof safe accessible to other family members. You might also consider keeping a password protected electronic copy of any documents you hold in the box itself OUTSIDE of the box for ease in reference and access.

Also, don’t use a safe deposit box to store documents such as a power of attorney that might be needed suddenly in case of an emergency.

Finally, what about keeping cash in a safe deposit box? This isn’t a good idea, either. That cash isn’t insured under Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) rules, which normally insure deposits in your accounts up to $250,000. Generally, to access the box the bank has to be open. If it is open, then you can get cash from the teller. Therefore, if you are thinking “emergency” when you think of a cash hoard, it might be kept where you can get your hands on it, 24/7. Perhaps, a good fireproof safe in your home that is secure or concealed might work best.