What to keep in a safety deposit box

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A safety deposit box
If you rent a safety deposit box at a bank, make sure you make your payments or the bank will open your box and remove your belongings
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When deciding what to put in a safety deposit box, consider many things.

Most people are told they should have a safety deposit box and they go to their nearest bank and rent one before considering what it is they would store in it. As with most things safety deposit boxes come in several sizes (with a range of rental prices). So it's wise to have a good idea of future content before signing any agreement. It also should be pointed out that many banks have just a limited number of safety deposit boxes available.


Your Personal Dilemma


First, there are no federal laws about what can or can't be kept in a safety deposit box. There's nothing the states can say about what you put in there. The only restriction would be whatever is in the bank's contract or lease that you sign when you rent a box. Experts say that most banks include restrictions on what can be put in the boxes. But for the most part, what you store in one is between you and your conscience. As a practical matter it would be difficult for a bank to monitor what's in your safety deposit box because banks just don't look.


Review the list below to get an idea of what to keep in a safety deposit box:


Adoption papers
Automobile titles
Birth certificates
Citizenship papers
Copyrights and patents
Court recorded documents
Death certificates
Divorce decrees
Inventory of valuable possessions (including appraisals and receipts)
Insurance photos of the contents of your home
Jewelry that you rarely use
Life insurance policies
List of insurance policies and numbers
Marriage certificates
Military records
Mortgage papers
Passports Photographs/negatives of valuables
Retirement plans
Stock/bond certificates and notes
Wills and Trusts (make sure your attorney has the originals)


What shouldn't go in the box are things you would need in an emergency like a living will or originals of a power-of-attorney authorization. When you decide what to keep in a safety deposit box, take time to read the bank's lease agreement. And if you want the contents insured, check with an insurance agent to find the appropriate coverage. Generally, your homeowners insurance does not cover the full amount of what you may have in your safety deposit box. So be sure to check with your agent.


Pay the Rent


Check with your bank to determine how rental fees are collected and what their rules are for non-payment. Many banks automatically deduct the annual safe-deposit box rental fee from your account. But if yours doesn't or if you don't have an account with the bank and you forget to pay the bill, the rules vary from state to state.


In Florida, for example, if the rent is three months past due, the bank sends registered mail to the last-known address saying the box will be opened if the owner doesn't respond within 30 days. The contents are then inventoried and stored for three years. If the contents are still unclaimed, they're sent to the state as unclaimed property.


The state also tries to contact the owner. If no one responds, the items are sold at auction. A record of the proceeds, minus storage fees, is kept in the owner's name. The owner or his or her heirs can claim the proceeds at any time.


Take Inventory


Finally, just as you probably have an inventory of valuable items in your house, you should also make an inventory of what's in your safety deposit box and keep it in a safe place in your home. Keep a list of the contents, updating it whenever you add or remove items. The list should include the location of the box and key. It's also a good idea to let a trusted relative or attorney know where your safety deposit box is. You never know when you might become incapacitated!

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