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What items would an average person keep in a safe deposit box? Sounds like most of the documents (passports, birth certificates) can be restored.

10 Answers 10

13

What you mentioned is good to put in there.

Putting a copy of your will (not the original) is also good. The reason why you don't put the original in there is because the box will be sealed upon your death, and it will be a mess to get the will out.

It's good off-site storage for small stuff you don't want lost. A fireproof safe might work, or it might not.

I wouldn't do valuables, though. Under certain conditions they can be confiscated if they're in a safety deposit box.

  • I have a fireproof safe, and I keep thinking that thieves could just walk off with it. I'm waiting for my local bank to get some safe deposit boxes available. – Matthew Jones Oct 14 '10 at 17:54
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    A fireproof safe in your house doesn't do much good when the house catches on fire and collapses on top of the safe! Most low cost safes are only rated for <1hr of fire protection too. How long will your house burn before the fire is out? – myron-semack Oct 20 '10 at 17:04
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    +1 for most of what you're saying, but as an aside, the article about gold is a poorly researched PR-job for Bullion Vault. If the government were to ever force all private citizens to sell their gold to the government, it wouldn't matter if you had it in a safe-deposit box. Hoarding it wouldn't help, as its value lies in being able to sell it. – Eclipse Oct 22 '10 at 17:06
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    @mbhunter, do you have any reputable sources of such a confiscation? I can't find much outside of people selling something. – Eclipse Oct 23 '10 at 17:56
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    The article is baloney, no way a bank is going to open a safe-deposit-box and confiscate the contents because of a "financial event". Turn over the contents to the FBI/CIA as part of a terror investigation? maybe. – E.J. Brennan Oct 31 '10 at 21:00
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Saw this article yesterday and thought about asking it.

  1. Copy of your last will and testament
  2. Deeds, titles and insurance papers for your house, car and other personal property
  3. Birth and adoption certificates
  4. Marriage and death certificates
  5. Custody agreement and divorce decrees
  6. Military service records
  7. Passports
  8. Copy of your health information (vaccinations, hospitalizations)
  9. Copy of power-of-attorney forms (if applicable)
  10. Social Security cards
  11. Contracts and other legal papers
  12. A videotape inventory of your household items
  13. Valuable heirlooms

While government forms can be replaced, proving identity is an difficult problem in the digital age, and if you lost all pieces of identity in a fire you'd be in trouble.

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    I realize the article is out of the US, where passports rarely need to be used, but for the rest of the world passports are there to be used, and I certainly wouldn't want to have to go to the bank every time I wanted to use them. Passports are also fairly easily replaced as long as you have copies of the documents you used to get them, like birth certificates. – DJClayworth Nov 1 '10 at 21:32
  • As noted, #1 is sorta useless since the box can't be opened until after probate. The rest are good examples. – keshlam Apr 13 '16 at 23:29
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A backup hard disk drive containing all your family pictures and movies. Digital life is more and more precious.

Moreover, it is bigger, cheaper and safer than cloud storage.

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    serverfault.com/questions/51851/… it wouldn't last very long – Corey Nov 2 '10 at 15:39
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    Digital memories add up with time. The backup should be updated and renewed accordingly. – mouviciel Nov 4 '10 at 8:15
  • I agree with Corey: Digital media tends to deteriorate fairly quickly. Even optical disks. :( – theo Nov 11 '10 at 22:48
  • For smaller items that you want to safe-keep, it is possible to buy archival-grade CD-R or DVD-R media. I wouldn't trust a single anything to keep my data readable, but despite the higher cost, archival grade optical media may be a viable option in many cases. – a CVn Jul 14 '16 at 7:54
  • Is this still true in 2018? Nowadays you can get about as much cloud storage as you could reasonably want for pretty cheap, and the fact that it's backed up makes it much more reliable than a single hard disk. – Nuclear Wang Feb 16 '18 at 20:41
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Consumerist posted a list of items to go in your safe deposit box: alt text

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U.S. savings bonds.

3

While it's true that just about everything can be replaced, actually having to replace any of those things can be extremely difficult, time consuming, and/or expensive.

1

I was looking into a safe deposit box and decided not to get one rather I bought a safe with a 2-hour fire rating and bolted it to the floor. The safe was less than $300. My rational:

  • A small safe deposit box, smaller than the safe I bought, would run be $50 a year. In 6 years I would pay more than the cost of the safe and over time I would pay more than the stuff thats in it is worth.

  • The contents of the safe deposit box are not insured by the bank. If the bank is robbed and they take you valuables you're out of luck.

  • Some banks have master keys and can open your box without you there, this was the case with my bank. That means you're trusting all the employees who have access to that key with your stuff.

  • All banks can drill your lock and take your stuff if you stop paying for the safe deposit box.

  • Banks can be robbed, same as your house. Banks can burn same as your house. Safe deposit boxes are not necessarily fireproof.

  • You shouldn't store your will or any paperwork a person needs upon your death in a safe deposit box anyway as it can take months for them to gain access. In your safe at home they can access it immediately. (provided you told them how to)

  • Some things you legally can't store in a safe deposit box (guns, ammunition, etc).

  • Where do you store your safe deposit box key? In your house? It can be stolen or lost. You'll be charged an arm and a leg to have to bank drill the existing lock and replace it with a new one for you.

Some examples:

  • Note: While inexpensive fire chests with at least a 1,-hour 1750-degree rating are surprisingly good for their price, they are not secure and should not be confused with security safes. They also work partly by high humidity, and thus are unable to protect photographic materials; for those you need a Media Chest (or you need to copy them to a more durable medium.) Pick your compromise, or be prepared to pay much more per cubic to get more than a basic box. Also note that in a burglary, a box that is hard to open may be stolen intact and opened later. – keshlam Apr 13 '16 at 23:38
  • A floor safe embedded in the basement is an alternative if yor r primary concern is security -- but be aware that in quenching a house fire, the basement typically gets completely filled with water, so consider inner containers waterproof to 10' or more. – keshlam Apr 13 '16 at 23:41
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This is what I have in my safe deposit box - Important documents like educational certificates, passports etc - Jewelery

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Agreed, replaced your passport and birth certificate is a pain, why risk having it stolen in your house if you don't need it often. You could also put foreign currency in there that you don't need any time soon.

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A few things I've found a tremendous PITA to replace if they are lost: everything you need to be "authenticated" in the digital world:

  • a list of bank account numbers, credit card numbers and PINs, drivers licence, birth certificate, government identity (SSN/SIN/...) numbers
  • usernames and passwords to internet sites, including email accounts, online banking etc - as these are often remembered in a digital keychain on your computer, if your computer dies these can be onerous to reassemble.

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