Safe Deposit Boxes: The Right (and Wrong) Way to Use Them

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Although most consumers have transferred their banking activities from physical institutions to online sites and apps, having a physical banking institution can definitely come with some advantages. One of those advantages is the ability access a safe deposit box. Safe deposit boxes can keep a lot of important documents safe from home theft and disasters like home fires. What should you keep in them? We spoke with some financial experts to find out.

Sandy Arons, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, recommends keeping the following in a safe deposit box:

  • Car titles
  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce agreement
  • Parenting plan
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Appraisals for collections or items on an insurance rider
  • Wills, durable power of attorney and other estate planning documents

Ray Advani, personal finance blogger at Squirrelers, reminds consumers that safe deposit boxes are less accessible and convenient than a household safe. “Remember, if you need a passport for overseas travel, power of attorney documents, and other items that you might need in a hurry, the box will likely be accessible only during your bank’s normal hours.”

Although safe deposit boxes can keep a variety of documents safe, there are also items that you shouldn’t include — financial assets in particular. As Advani notes, any financial assets that you store in a deposit box and are not held in any bank accounts,could be damaged or stolen and would not be FDIC insured.

While you don’t want everyone to know the whereabouts of your safe deposit box and its keys or code, Arons says, “In case of emergency, the executor of your will needs to know the location of your safety deposit box and keys.”

Of course, state laws about safe deposit boxes can vary. “If you live in multiple places, be aware of state laws regarding access to your safe deposit box if another owner dies,” says Janet Groene. Groene, who writes for people who live on the go in an RV, warns that your rights as a safe deposit box co-owner depend on state law. “If there is a death in the family and the box is sealed, you could be shut out while the state steps in.”

 

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