Tips on Safe Deposit Boxes

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Store valuable items in a safe deposit box.
Store valuable items in a safe deposit box. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A safe deposit box is a smart choice for storing important documents, family keepsakes, valuable collectibles and other items that you might not be able to replace if they were destroyed. A true safe deposit box is located inside a banking institution, as opposed to a home safe. It not only protects your irreplaceable items from someone else's hands, but also from fire, water and other natural perils.

Items to Store

Original copies of birth certificates, car titles, insurance policies, marriage licenses, stock certificates and property deeds are good items to store in a safe deposit box. You may also want to store valuable items such as stamp collections, rare coins and savings bonds. Expensive jewelry can be kept here, but plan ahead when you want to wear them, as you need to retrieve these items during banking hours. Prepare an inventory of all items in your house to have on hand for insurance purposes and place a copy of it in your safe deposit box. It is also a good idea to store originals of family photos that cannot be replaced if lost.

Original documents can be stored in a safe deposit box.
Original documents can be stored in a safe deposit box. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Items Not to Store

There are many items that need safekeeping, but not necessarily in a safe deposit box. Since you are the only person who can retrieve the items, you should not leave your last will and testament in a safe deposit box. Do not store items that you might need to access on a regular basis, such as passports or powers of attorney. Though some may think cash is safest here, you will not earn the interest you could from a regular bank account. If there are any items that you might need on a weekend, or after banking hours, don't put them in your safe deposit box.

Insurance

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures traditional types of bank accounts, such as checking and savings. However, the FDIC does not insure the contents of a safe deposit box even though it is housed inside the vault of the bank. You should consult your personal insurance agent to discuss policies that will cover the contents of your safe deposit box. Consider fire and theft policies for this purpose, or determine if these items fall under the umbrella of your homeowner or renter policy.

Tips

If you decide that a safe deposit box is the right solution for your valuable documents and family heirlooms, you can rent one at your bank. Pick the branch that is most convenient so you can retrieve items easily if you need them. Safe deposit boxes come in a range of sizes and rental fees. In most cases, the fee is charged annually and you can have this fee automatically deducted from your account. Keep the key in a safe place, but do not store the box number or other identifying information near it.

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