Pitfalls of a Bank Safe Deposit Box

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Know the pitfalls of a bank safe deposit box before locking up your valuables.
Know the pitfalls of a bank safe deposit box before locking up your valuables. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A bank safe deposit box a very secure place to store highly valuable items. Deeds, insurance policies, passports and jewelry are a few items people store. Bank safe deposit boxes, because of their stainless steel construction that offers a stable temperature and humidity environment, are ideal for storing photo negatives. Though you may rest at ease knowing these items are safe, you must also be aware of the pitfalls to using a bank safe deposit box.

Accessibility

A bank's rules regarding who can access a safe deposit box are strict -- and the bank will not bend those rules. If you are the only owner of the safe deposit box, then you will be the only person with access rights to it. For that reason, never store the original of your last will and testament in there. If you want someone else to have access rights upon your death, then have a co-renter whose name is listed with the bank.

Availability

It is a good feeling knowing your valuables are safe and sound in your deposit box -- until you need something in an emergency during nonbanking hours. A safe deposit box is only available during the bank's business hours. Such limited availability can seriously hinder you in some situations; for example, if you store your passport and must travel out of the country on a moment's notice, then you will be out of luck.

Retrieve your passport from your safe deposit box before an upcoming trip.
Retrieve your passport from your safe deposit box before an upcoming trip. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Insurance

The Federal Depository Insurance Company (FDIC) protects your money if a bank fails. However, the FDIC does not insure the contents of a safe deposit box, neither is there insurance against damage caused by fire, flood or theft. Though these occurrences are rare, it is important to know that nothing is 100 percent safe. Check with your personal homeowner's or renter's insurance company; your policy may include coverage of items stored in a bank safe deposit box.

Abandonment

Failure to pay for a safe deposit box for an extended period of time can result in the bank abandoning the contents. The bank is first required to make every effort to notify you before turning over the property to the state's unclaimed property office. Abandonment usually occurs when a person dies and the heirs are unaware of the box's existence, so be sure someone else knows about it.

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