Understanding safe deposit boxes: Part 1

To help you decide if a safe deposit box is right for you, know what they provide and how they should be used.

Safe deposit boxes are important features offered by many financial institutions (i.e. banks, credit unions, etc.) or other commercial establishments. Each year, millions of Americans rent safe deposit boxes, however many consumers do not fully understand the scope of this service. This article will highlight the purpose of safe deposit boxes and what items should and should not be stored within them.

For many, a safe deposit box is a critical component of their family/household record system. According to Michigan State University Extension, safe deposit boxes offer private, convenient and low-cost offsite storage options for items that are difficult, costly or impossible to replace. They are potentially more resistant to theft and damage (i.e. fire or water) than home file cabinets or safes. Also, some insurance companies will offer lower insurance premiums on valuable items stored in safe deposit boxes versus storing them at home.

Items suitable for a safe deposit box include the following:

  • Family records such as marriage
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Divorce papers
  • Adoption papers
  • Citizenship records
  • Service/military records
  • Other government or court ordered documents
  • Original insurance policies
  • Original deeds, titles or mortgages
  • Leases or other contracts
  • Stocks, bonds or certificates of deposit (CD’s)
  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Automobile titles (if required in your state)
  • Jewelry
  • Medals
  • Rare collections or collectibles
  • Irreplaceable photo negatives
  • Video or photos of your home’s contents
  • A copy of your Household Inventory 

Items that are not recommended for a safe deposit box are things that you might need in an emergency, such as: original “power of attorney” documents, passports, medical directives and funeral or burial instructions that you have prepared. You might consider giving your attorney the originals of the items mentioned above and then making copies that could either go into your safe deposit box or to a trusted friend or relative.

The next article in this series will highlight safe deposit box accessibility and safety.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources