What Do You Keep in Your Safe Deposit Box?

In a world of electronic recordkeeping and legal digital signatures, bank safe deposit boxes are a bit old-school. However, they still exist, and many people still depend on them for the safekeeping of a variety of items important to them.

There are some items people often keep, but should not, in their safe deposit box at their bank due to accessibility. When thinking through essential items that may be needed at a moments notice, there are three that come to mind:

  1. Estate documents. Wills, Power-of-Attorney, and any Letters of Instruction are often stored in a safe deposit box. It is secure, and you know where it is. A good choice, right? Wrong. Once a bank is notified of your death, the bank must seal your box until your executor can provide legal proof that they have the right to access your box. Unfortunately, that proof may be in the same box they need to access. A safe deposit box is a good place for copies of important documents but keep your originals somewhere else secure, such as a fireproof safe.
  2. Advance Directives for Healthcare. These include:
  • Living Will. You declare your end-of-life wishes, such as not to be incubated.
  • Healthcare Proxy. You designate someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Often a healthcare crisis arises unexpectantly, and you need to have easy access to these documents when you arrive at the hospital. I save a photo of them to my ‘favorites’ in my iPhone’s photo app, and my wife knows how to access them. Another alternative could be saving a copy of the document to a cloud-based app.

  1. Heirloom Jewelry, spare keys, cash, passports, etc. These items can be anything you might need in an emergency situation outside of banking hours. Although most institutions are open for designated times on weekends, think ahead and plan around holiday closings if you need access to your box.

I also find people often do not remember what is in their safe deposit box, so it is a good idea to make an inventory and keep it somewhere for easy access, such as your mobile device.


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What NOT to Keep in Your Bank Safe Deposit Box

  • Estate Documents- Wills, POA, Ltrs. of Instruction
  • Advance Directives for Healthcare- Living Will, Healthcare Proxy
  • Jewelry, spare keys, cash, passport

Final tip: Store an inventory on your mobile device



Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including  J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaireand 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget.


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