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Don’t Put These Things in Your Safe Deposit Box

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In a previous article we discussed how you can use a safe deposit box as part of your estate planning. That article discussed who would have access to your safe deposit box and how access would be provided after you died.

That article led to several questions from people about the types of things that they should and shouldn’t put in their safe deposit box. Based on those questions I decided to write this article to specifically talk about the things that you should NOT put into your safe deposit box.

Most of my articles focus mainly on estate planning issues, which could include using a safe deposit box. This article describes your use of a safe-deposit box while you are alive. The goal of this article is to give you some information so that when you use a safe deposit box it will be easy and beneficial for you and your family.

In a different article I will talk about and make a list of the things that you could and should put in your safe deposit box. Also, in most of our other articles we discuss estate planning related issues in an effort to provide you with information and help you with your own plan. Even if you’ve never thought about getting your estate plan done, we encourage you to download and review our free Estate Planning Questionnaire. This document has helped thousands of people organize the information they need to complete their own plan that will be customized to fit and work for them, their family members, and their loved ones.

We also offer a free 30-minute consultation to review the questionnaire and to answer any estate planning related questions you have. We encourage you to call us today to schedule your free consultation.

Time now to get to the focus of this article. What are the things that you should NOT put in a safe deposit box? Here is a specific list.

Cash

When many people think of a safe deposit box they think of cash. The reason for this is because of the many action movies we see of spies or assassins getting into a safe deposit box held in a fancy bank in some foreign country. In these scenes, the safe deposit box is usually filled with passports, guns, and usually lots of cash. While this makes for great Hollywood movie scenes, it’s not based on any type or kind of reality.

Never, ever, EVER put cash in a safe-deposit box that you or your family will need. The reason for this is simple. The items in your safe deposit box are not FDIC insured. If the safe deposit box gets destroyed by a fire or some other calamity or if the bank is robbed and the safe deposit box is opened, or if somehow someway the items in your safe deposit box just magically disappear, there is absolutely no insurance you will get from the bank.

However, if you take that same cash and you put it into a checking or savings account or you purchase a CD or some other type of Bank related product, you will enjoy the FDIC Insurance protecting your account. What this simply means is if the bank goes bankrupt, or gets robbed, or has some natural disaster occur your money is still insured and you will still receive it.

So, unless you are some sort of international spy or assassin, NEVER put cash in your safe deposit box.

Original Estate Planning Documents

The second type of item that you should NEVER put in your safe deposit box is your original estate planning documents. These would include your last will and testament, your durable power of attorney that covers property and finances, your living will, and your power of attorney for health care. It could also include your trust documents as well.

The reason that you should never put the original estate planning documents in your safe deposit boxes is simple. Your safe deposit box can only be accessed by you or any other owners while they are alive. If you die, or if you are incapacitated, your family may need your original estate planning documents to help you or to take care of your estate. However, they will not get access to those documents until a court appoints them or gives them authority to act on behalf of you or your estate.

The problem is the very documents that you need to present to a court to get that appointment are in your safe deposit box. This means that your family will have to go through the steps of getting an appointment just to get your documents and then they will have to undo everything they’ve done to follow the instructions and wishes you put in your estate planning documents.

We encourage you to keep your powers of attorney in your home in a safe place where you and your family know they are located. We encourage you to keep your original last will and testament with your attorney’s office. This way these documents are available when you need them, but they are also safe and protected.

Letters of Instruction

In a similar vein, you should not keep your letter of instructions to your family that you want them to follow after you passed away in your safe deposit box. The reason for this is that the safe deposit box is usually one of the last things that is opened after you pass away.

If you have specific instructions about your funeral arrangements, about your estate planning, or about any other items that are of concern to you, you should keep this letter of instructions in a safe place in your home we’re both you and your family know it’s location.

Uninsured Items of Value

Additionally, other uninsured items should be kept out of your safe deposit box. I once had a client who placed gold coins in a safe deposit box only to have them disappear. The problem is, there was no way to prove that there had ever been gold coins in the safe deposit box in the first place. The bank does not ensure those items. Additionally, unless you have a real generous insurance company you are dealing with, your own insurance will likely not ensure those gold coins either.

Any Items You Might Need Immediately

Finally, we discourage you from putting any items in your safe deposit box that you might need immediately. This could include passports, certain medical documentation, spare keys, and other similar items.

The bank is only open during certain hours. You only have access to your safe deposit box during those hours. If there is an emergency, but it is the weekend, or a holiday, or after hours, then you will have to wait until the bank opens again before you will have access to these items in your safe deposit box. For this reason, we encourage you to keep things that you may need immediately at your own home in a safe location.

As the premier Idaho estate planning and probate law firm, our attorneys are ready to help you with your own specific estate planning or probate needs. We have helped numerous clients with their own Estate Planning and probate issues, and we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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