Have you ever made mental note of some paperwork you have at home which deserves special treatment and safety? Maybe it is an old love letter your parents exchanged, or a copy of a special photograph.  How about your social security card?  If any of these things has come to mind, a safe deposit box might be something to consider. Safe deposit boxes can ensure the safety of the item from theft or other damage.  Items you may want to consider placing in the box would be:

  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Deeds to property
  • Mortgage notes
  • Marriage licenses and divorce decrees
  • Military discharge records
  • Social Security cards
  • Stock certificates
  • Automobile titles
  • Important electronic document or file back ups
  • A copy of homeowner insurance
  • A copy of your will
  • Copies of credit cards
  • Automobile titles
  • Collectables or expensive jewelry
  • Passports (but only if you are sure you will not need immediate access to these)

Keep in mind some things to consider if you decide to get a safe deposit box.  You should keep an original copy of your living will or medical power of attorney at home should you suddenly become ill. A copy can be in your safe deposit box.

Don’t lose the key!  The bank does not have a copy and you will have to pay to have the lock drilled out should you lose the key. Choose carefully who else you give access to your safe deposit box.  Why would someone need to get in there; in the event of your death, or illness?  Keep track of when your rent is due.  If your bank doesn’t automatically deduct it from your account you will need to be sure your rent is up to date.  States vary on what banks can do with items where a safe deposit box rent has lapsed.

Make sure if you have valuables kept in the safe deposit box, such as jewelry or an expensive collection, you have proper off-site coverage, often available through your homeowner policy.  Banks are not responsible for the loss or damage to your valuables; only deposit accounts are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

As for those who have safes in their homes.  Be careful and do your homework before making that purchase.  When Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tests the safes they essentially use a large furnace and gradually raise the temperature around the safe.  The UL does  not try to replicate a house or wildfire; instead they guarantee that each test is consistent and uniform. Essentially when UL tests home safes they use the equivalent of a giant furnace to hear the air around the safe.  Be sure if you choose an in-home safe to protect your belongings, you do the proper research.

Often we procrastinate getting a safe deposit box or home safe.  Sometimes it can be expense, the “hassle” or we genuinely mean to and forget.  If you choose a home safe, be sure you have it bolted to the floor where it is located.  If a tornado, fire or flood destroys your home, you will never regret having made the time and effort to protect precious or irreplaceable documents/items.