Having a safe deposit box at your local bank can seem like a relic from the past, but keeping important documents and possessions (i.e., your birth certificate or your grandmother’s wedding ring) in your bank vault can be safer than storing them at home.
Some things, however, shouldn’t be kept in a safe deposit box. Items stored in a safe deposit box can be hard to access in the event of an emergency and, worse yet, they may not be covered by the bank’s insurance.
Here are some things you’d be better off storing in a fireproof safe within your home, rather than in a safe deposit box:
A large stash of cash
If you need cash in an emergency, storing it in a safe deposit box might not be a good move. Banks aren’t open nights and holidays, and sometimes not even weekends, so immediate access to your cash when you need it isn’t always possible.
Additionally, some banks don’t allow cash to be stored in a safe deposit box. If it is allowed, it won’t be protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC. The FDIC covers up to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank, but only for money deposited in an account such as a checking or savings account, or a certificate of deposit (CD). Also, you won’t earn any interest on cash stored in a box.
You don’t want to lose or misplace your passport, so keeping it in a safe deposit box can sound like a good idea. But if you have to take an emergency trip overseas to visit a sick family member during non-banking hours, leaving the country quickly can be difficult—if not impossible—without your passport.
Keeping copies of your will or a spouse’s will in a safe deposit box is okay but be sure it’s not the original copy.
If you’re the sole owner of the safe deposit box and you pass away, the bank will seal the safe deposit box until an executor can prove that they have the legal right to access it. A better idea is to keep the original copy of your will with your attorney—or someplace else where the executor won’t have to jump through legal hoops to get it.
Think twice about keeping important documents that others may need quickly in a safe deposit box, especially if you’re the only person who can access them.
These include a Power of Attorney, or POA, that gives someone the ability to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to handle your legal or financial affairs.
Advance directives should also be kept somewhere other than in a safe deposit box. A living will states your wishes for end-of-life care, and a healthcare power of attorney designates someone to make decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.
Jewelry, rare coins, rare baseball cards and other high-value items that aren’t properly insured shouldn’t be stored in a safe deposit box.
The FDIC doesn’t insure the contents of a safe deposit box, and neither does the bank unless it’s explicitly stated in your agreement. Be sure to check your homeowners insurance for personal property coverage on items kept outside your home.