A physical safe deposit box may seem like a thing of the past in today's digital age, but there are many items that need to be protected in this type of vault. Important documents and certain valuables can find a proper home in a safe deposit box; however, there are also many items that you should not put in your safe deposit box to avoid problems for either you or your heirs. Keep in mind that banks are not open on nights, holidays or weekends and there are times that you need to gain immediate access to your property.
We recommend that you do not keep your passport in a safe deposit box. Even if you think that you only take planned trips and even those are rare, there may be a time when a family member is in trouble and an unexpected trip becomes necessary. For this reason, we would suggest that you keep your passport in a locked safe bolted to the floor of your home.
Many banks forbid storing cash in a safe deposit box. It is better to have the money in an interest-bearing account where you have ATM access. You can keep small amounts in the home in a locked safe or appropriate hiding place.
Original Copy of your Will and/or POA Documents
You should keep a copy of your will in either a safe deposit box or a locked safe in your home; however, you do not want to keep the original will in a safe deposit box. The reason for this is that upon your death, the bank will seal the safe deposit box until your executor gains access through the Probate Court to inventory what is inside. Having your will locked inside the safe deposit box will cause unnecessary delays in the probate process. The same can be said for your original Power of Attorney documents. Should you become incapacitated, the person you designated to step in and make decisions on your behalf will have trouble accessing the document needed to prove his or her authority.
Uninsured Valuable Items
The FDIC does not insure the contents of a safe deposit box nor does the bank itself. While it is often thought that a safe deposit box is indeed safe, it is more common than we would like to think for items to become missing or damaged. Standard homeowner’s insurance offers some coverage for personal property but the limits are often very low. If your property is very valuable, it would be wise to make sure it is properly insured before storing it off premises in a safe deposit box.
Firearms are not typically allowed in safe deposit boxes. To avoid criminal issues, do not store any items that are illegal or hazardous in your safe deposit box.
While maintaining a safe deposit box can be a good way to protect items, you should do so with caution. For more information on asset protection and estate planning, contact the attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area.