Tips on Safe Deposit Boxes

Saturday, Jan 01 2000 12:00 AM

Safe deposit boxes are secured miniature vaults most often located inside banks and lending institutions. Safe deposit boxes are available for rental, often on a contractual basis. Boxes come in different sizes and can be used to safeguard all variety of different items. People commonly use safe deposit boxes to store valuable or important items that are difficult or impossible to replace.

Use Your Own Bank

Talk to your personal bank about safe deposit box rental options and fees. Banks often offer discounted rates for people who already have accounts with them. Shop around and get comparison costs from other banks to make sure you're getting a product and service that meets your needs. Questions to ask include hours of access, fees and length of rental agreement. Also take into consideration how close the safe deposit box is to your home.

Be Size-Savvy

Decide which items you want to store in a safe deposit box and choose your box size accordingly. The larger the box, the higher the rental fee. People commonly store copies or originals of important paperwork like birth certificates or critical legal documents, as well as things such as duplicate key sets, family heirlooms and valuable personal items they aren't comfortable keeping at home and even items of a highly personal nature that they don't want to fall into the wrong hands or risk getting lost or damaged.

Consider Accessibility

Don't store anything in your safe deposit box that you might need quick access to. Getting something out of your safe deposit box isn't as fast as going through a bank drive-through. You'll need a bank representative to enter the vault with you and insert her key while you insert yours to open the vault. You’ll be given privacy to go through the contents of your box and remove or place items inside for safekeeping. Something like emergency cash or your passport might be better stashed in a fireproof home safe.

Grant Access Rights

Give someone you trust access to your safe deposit box in the event of an emergency. This might be a parent or grandparent or a spouse. If anything happens to you, or if you need someone else to retrieve something from your box in a hurry, giving another person access in advance can save time and hassle. Without preplanning, it can take legal action for another individual to access your safe deposit box.

Wills and Advanced Directives

If you have a will or advanced medical directive, storing them in a safe deposit box is not recommended. Depending on the state, access to a safe deposit box may be denied to other people after the owner's death -- in some states even by a person designated as having access. Even immediate family members may have a difficult time accessing these documents in the event of a medical emergency or your death. They are likely to have to seek legal assistance, and if they don't know about your safe deposit box's existence, your wishes may not be known if you can't speak for yourself.

Understand Limitations

While safe deposit boxes are well protected against water damage, fire and theft, they aren’t completely foolproof. Also, according to the FDIC, safe deposit boxes can be robbed by criminals, seized by law enforcement or frozen or confiscated by the IRS.

by Lisa McQuerrey, Demand Media

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