By: Revanche

Safe Deposit Box: yea or nay?

March 18, 2010

Does anyone have a safe deposit box for their important documents?
 
Now that I’m going to be more or less a denizen of California as a whole, and not just local to one or the other region, I feel even more nomadic than when I was just traveling during unemployment.  I want to have a secure location to keep my birth certificate, passport, Social Security card, and eventually my will. (The will is still under construction.)  It seems a little pretentious to rent out a safe deposit box for just those documents, though, and as though a fireproof, waterproof safe might be a better long term choice.

Until I called the bank, I had no idea the boxes were so expensive, so I’m a bit put off by it. I’d love to hear some arguments for or against the whole idea.  Or alternative solutions I’ve not yet considered, even.

20 Responses to “Safe Deposit Box: yea or nay?”

  1. Regarding your will, when you make one, be sure that you have multiple copies and one stays with your lawyer in case one copy is destroyed.

  2. L.A. Daze says:

    I used to have a safe deposit box with my bank but found it to be a hassle. At the time I was in college and did not want to leave my important documents in my dorm room for other people to rifle through. I think the safe deposit box came with my account though.

    Once I moved off campus I took all my stuff out of the box because I prefer to keep it close to me. I just don’t trust the wildfires in the Malibu area…what if my bank burnt down?

    I have moved around a lot (including several international moves). As long as you keep all your important documents in a designated folder (which of course, you shouldn’t lose), you should be fine.

  3. Shelley says:

    I would consider a safe deposit box for jewellery or perhaps for papers concerning my paid-for house, like the title, that a bank normally keeps when you have a mortgage. There used to be title companies in the US, but there are not here in the UK. The trouble with safe deposit boxes here in the UK is that you not only pay rent, but they charge you to visit your box, and I’m just not willing to accept that. Last I knew, they did not charge in the US. The thing is, you can always get another birth certificate or passport (for a fee) or a social security card, I’m sure. How often are you ever asked for the latter anyhow? Most people know their numbers off by heart (I did once I filled in college entrance paperwork) and carry their card in their wallet, last I knew. As to your will, your lawyers generally keep a copy. Here in the UK there is a central registration service that is also available, so that family members can inquire about whether there was a will or not. For the papers you mention, I’d put them in a metal filing cabinet and not worry about a safe deposit box or safe, but that’s just me. (BTW, well done you for writing a will – I just did my first aged 53; long over due).

  4. My dad bought his own lockable, fireproof, waterproof safe for our home where we keep all of that stuff. It’s probably a little expensive, but it’s a one time fee.

  5. Sunflowers says:

    We have a fire/waterproof safe that I bought on Amazon for $60ish. It’s a pain in the ass to move though. You say you’re going to be nomadic – so you’ll be moving around a lot? In that case, I would go with the deposit box.

  6. psychsarah says:

    I’m not totally techy, so others might have better ideas on the “how”, but perhaps buying the safe and also scanning the documents and storing them electronically somewhere (e.g., e-mail them to yourself) so you can access them regardless of what building fell into the fault line or burned down. Please tell me if this is totally naive tech types 🙂

  7. I would go with the bank if I were in your shoes. We have one of those gigantic ones that’s waterproof and fireproof. I recommend you buy a big one that’s not easily moved once you’ve settled down to one place.

  8. We have a fireproof safe. I don’t think bank safety deposit boxes provide the security one might think. I know that many banks were flooded after Katrina and that the contents did not survive–and were not (I don’t think) insured.

  9. mOOm says:

    I just keep these things at home. I figure I can get new copies anyway if needed for most things. I lost my undergrad diploma in the move to the US in 2002. The courier box was broken open and some books and that were lost. I couldn’t be bothered to go through the hassle of getting a new one, as I have a couple of graduate degrees and only the last one was needed by US immigration. I keep all info on account numbers/passwords etc. electronically in multiple copies (passwords are indicated only by a code that reminds me what it is).

  10. mOOm says:

    PS of course we don’t live in an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane zone. And we live in an apartment off the ground that is relatively hard to break into. So as they say YMMV.

  11. Mike says:

    $100/year does sound pretty expensive. Are there any smaller boxes with lower fees?

    I say keep everything at home in a safe and electronically too. I like the little chart – haha.

  12. mbhunter says:

    If you put your will there, don’t put the original in there. I believe the SDB gets sealed upon your death and it’s a bugger to get it out of there. Put a copy in there and keep the original outside the SDB.

  13. BF had one… but I thought the same thing: same city, what the hell?

    If I were to do it, I’d put one in another city (Toronto) and one in my own city to be uber sure

    but damn that’s pricey.

  14. My parents have a touch-pad safe box where they store everything. I’m not sure how it got to where it is in my house, but it looks pretty heavy. Currently, I have a tiny little box where I store those things. I think you should get a personal safebox but make digital copies of the important documents. And maybe have them notarized…

  15. I’ve always thought it would be a good idea but never realized it was that expensive! For me, I would want copies of all important documents, some photos (incase of fire etc), but $100 a year would be quite a lot to pay over 20, 30, 40 years!

  16. Hmmm… I’ve never had a safe deposit box. My father did. It was a pain in the butt to get into it after he died–I had to prove to the bank 15 ways from Sunday not only that he was dead but that yes, uh huh, most certainly YES I was his executor. Argh!

    I’ve been lazy about getting a safe. So far nothing has happened, but it must be allowed that this is pretty foolish. At least the key documents should be in a fire-proof, burglar-proof safe bolted to the floor. Costco has a couple of halfway decent safes. But if you go to a full-service locksmith, they often sell safes and will come to your dwelling and bolt them down.

    The safe then becomes part of the house. When you move to a new house the safe stays behind, and you get a new one for the new dwelling. But compared to $100 a month (!) you’d still be ahead.

    From what I understand, there’s a difference between a fire-resistant safe and a burglar-resistant safe (apparently neither one is fully “-proof”). Some safes combine both features — consumers need to check to be sure the safe fills their specific needs.

  17. Sense says:

    the chances that your box or bank will fall into an abyss and be lost foreeevvveeerrr are really, really low, despite what the Clan of Cave Bear movie may show. Just don’t rent an apartment on an ACTIVE fault (they should zone those things anyway). in CA, fire (due to wild fire OR an earthquake) is much more likely…

    after a disaster, they usually do some sort of sifting through of the rubble–a good decent box should survive, right?

    if you get your own lockable box, once you get renter’s insurance, shouldn’t the insurance cover the cost of getting new copies of everything? that may be a good two birds with one stone kind of thing…

  18. We have a fireproof safe in our closet. When we had to evacuate because of the fires we just took it with us!

  19. We have a fireproof box in our apartment and a safe deposit box. Bank of America actually gave us the box for free (no annual fee) because we have more than $5,000 in our accounts there.

  20. Revanche says:

    @AP: I don’t have a lawyer, actually, but I would give copies to my executors whoever I eventually decide on. Or let them know how to find a copy, anyway.

    @L.A.Daze: I was hoping to avoid the “carry it around” method but it might be what I end up doing.

    @Shelley: I would never carry my SS card in my wallet, it’s far too unsafe, but I think you have to bring it when you start new jobs. It’s been so long I can’t remember anymore.

    Either way, I’m having a hard time stomaching the $100/year charge. I didn’t know anyone could charge you for visiting your own box, though!

    It’d be great if we had a central registration but frankly, I’m operating from the standpoint that I can only trust a very few people with that kind of information and I don’t have a lawyer.

    @me in millions, sunflowers: Semi-nomadic. If I’m not at the home residence, I don’t trust my papers just in a non-secure box, and I’d like to make sure the papers themselves are safe (more concerned about fire/water damage than anything).

    psychsarah: I’ll definitely keep electronic copies of everything. I’m just concerned about what to do with the originals since I have to keep them.

    @Jersey Mom: Definitely won’t be getting the bolted-to-the-floor kind.

    @FS: That’s what I was thinking re: bank safety.

    mOOm: There are only a few things I’d bother storing, though apparently if you want to work for some parts of the gov’t (I don’t know all of them, just the ones friends have applied to) you have to have the originals of everything going back to high school. Kind of crazy.

    @Mike: You can go one size down, but it’s about the size of a large index card!

    @mbhunter: Gotcha. Thanks!

    @FB: Incredibly pricey. Maybe I’ll try to sweet talk them into giving me a two-fer 🙂 (Won’t work as the branches charge independently.)

    @InvestingNewbie: That’s a decent compromise.

    @FrugalTrenches: I know, the long term cost of the SDB kind of kills me.

    @FaM: I’m much more concerned about natural damage. The monetary value of the documents is minimal compared to the inconvenience and cost of replacement.

    @Sense: Definitely leaning towards the safe. But I remain unconvinced that things aren’t falling into abysses at some point in CA.

    @Bucksome Boomer: Perhaps a case style safe would be handy, now you mention it.

    @paranoidasteroid: I may have to revise my opinion of BofA being nothing but a fee-monster!

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