A safe deposit box can offer protection for your important documents and possessions. It, however, isn’t a wise choice for all of your important stuff. Keep reading to find out what items should never be kept in a safe deposit box.
Yes, safe deposit boxes are locked storage bins located in the vault or other secured areas of federally-insured banks and credit unions. But, unlike your checking or savings account, the money (or anything else for that matter) you put into a safe deposit box is NOT federally-insured. Therefore, if you want to stash your cash somewhere, you’re better off putting it in a bank account of some type, be it a savings or money market account. At least it will be protected (up to $250,000) there AND it will earn interest over time.
Safe deposit boxes are generally for storing things you don’t need at a moment’s notice. And, the truth of the matter is you never know when you might need access to your passport. Even if you’re not a frequent traveler, you might need to take an unplanned emergency trip during non-banking hours. And, unless you plan on breaking into the bank to get your passport — which we don’t advise, you’re going to have to wait until the bank opens. By then you will have missed your flight and missed out on being able to tend to that emergency situation that arose.
8. Spare Keys
I’m not sure why anyone would want to store a spare key in a safe deposit box, but I’m sure someone somewhere has done it. Unfortunately, it’s a bad idea because your bank isn’t open 24/7. And, if you just so happen to need that spare key and the bank is closed, you will need to wait until they reopen to get it. If it happens to be a Friday evening, you’re going to have to wait all weekend to get to that spare key. The best thing to do, then, is to leave your spare keys with a family member or trusted neighbor.
7. Anything Dangerous or Illegal
Firearms, explosives, illicit drugs, hazardous materials, and anything else dangerous and/or illegal is a no-no when it comes to safe deposit boxes. Don’t worry, your bank will probably tell you that when you attempt to rent a box with them. You can (and should) keep your firearms at home in a locked gun cabinet. As for the other stuff, there’s really no reason for you to even have it anyway. Not only that but you run the risk of getting into some serious trouble if the bank reports you. Take our advice and just don’t do it.
6. Uninsured Valuables
Jewelry, rare coins, family heirlooms and things of that nature should never be kept in a safe deposit box if they’re not insured. That’s because the contents of safe deposit boxes are not FDIC-insured, and many times the contents have gone missing, particularly when banks change owners or when the bank mistakenly throws out your stuff when attempting to throw out another customer’s items. Unfortunately, many of those items are never returned to the rightful owner.
TIP: There are companies that specialize in insuring safe deposit box contents. Just tell the insurance company that your valuable items will be kept in one. Doing so might even get you a lower premium because these items will be more secure there than they would be if you kept them in your home.
5. The Only Copy of Your Will
Did you know that some states require banks to automatically seal safe deposit boxes when someone dies? Yep, it’s true. It’s also unfortunate for your loved ones who will have to encounter all types of legal hurdles just to get to your will. Now, if you want to keep a copy of your will in a safe deposit box, that’s fine. But, the original should not be in there. It should be with the lawyer who drafted it or with an executor instead.
TIP: If you insist on putting the original copy of your will in a safe deposit box, you can always add other names to your lease. They will have equal access and rights to the contents of the box. That way in the event of your untimely demise, someone will be able to access your will.
4. Power of Attorney
If you’ve completed the legal documents required to grant durable power of attorney to a family member or friend, the last place you want those documents is in a safe deposit box — especially if you’re the only one allowed to access the contents of that box. Here’s what to do instead: keep the original power of attorney with the original copy of your will. Any copies of your power of attorney should go to those who you’ve appointed to that position.
3. Advance Directives
An advance directive is a legal document that allows you to determine your decisions about end-of-life care before that time comes. For example, you can decide if you want a ventilator used to keep you alive. Or, you can decide if you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops. This document helps cut down on any confusion between your family members and physicians. That being said, the last place you’d want your advance directive is locked away in a safe deposit box. Instead, make sure you give copies to your family members, healthcare providers, and your power of attorney.
2. Letters of Instruction
A letter of instruction is just that — a letter outlining your instructions, or wishes, for your funeral and other end-of-life matters. It’s not a legal document, but you still don’t want it locked away in a safe deposit box where people might not be able to access it until long after you’ve been buried. That being said, keep the original copy of your letter of instruction with the original copy of your will. And, the safest place for them is with an executor or with your lawyer.
1. Anything Your Bank Prohibits
There are certain items that are not allowed in safe deposit boxes. Items typically banned include drugs, weapons, and hazardous materials. Also, anything that’s banned in your state will most likely not be allowed in a safe deposit box either. Not only that but each bank is different. What one allows another might prohibit. If you’re unsure what yours allows, double-check the list of items you are not allowed to store in the box when you sign the agreement to open it. That should clear up any confusion.
Your turn! Tell us what you keep in your safe deposit box. We’d love to hear from you!