Guide to Safe Deposit Boxes

Safe deposit boxes have been used for years by individuals to protect small quantities of precious items from theft, fire or flood damage. The following is a guide to help you understand why you need a safe deposit box, and how to obtain one, use it, and maintain it.

Why You Might Need a Safe Deposit Box

Many people have inherited or received military service medals, a small collection of art miniatures, stamps or even baseball cards from a loved one. In order to keep the items safe, they may try to keep the items out of the home, where they might be subject to loss or damage. A safe deposit box is ideal for these keepsakes. In addition to housing them in a safe deposit box, you should consider covering them with a rider to your home insurance policy.

Also, you may own financial instruments such as:  stocks, bonds, gold proof coins, gold futures or even gold bullion. These intrinsic value items belong in a safe deposit box, not in your home. The yearly rent you pay for the safety deposit box is a deductible when the box is used for the aforementioned investment purchases.

Keeping a copy of your most important items in your box is also recommended. Items like your retirement savings plans, registered education savings plans, and drawn up a detailed will with provisions for their care should they still be minors if you die in an accident. Ensure the originals of these documents are kept with your lawyer or the person you have selected as the executor of your will.

What You Should Never Put in a Safe Deposit Box

Any illegal substance, firearms, cash in any denomination, toxic or explosive substances must never be stored in a safe deposit box. Your box can be impounded for illegal activity and forced open. You will be arrested and charged with the applicable offences.

How to Arrange the Use of a Safe Deposit Box

Contact your bank branch to see if a safe deposit box is available. If so, fill out the lease agreement, and ensure that all persons who will access the box put their signatures on this form. Have the yearly fee deducted directly from your bank account. Keep the two keys you will get in a secure location, apart from each other in your home. You must open the box in person, with a bank administrator present.

If putting keepsake objects in your box, photograph them and send copies to your lawyer. Keep copies, not originals of important documents there. Visit the box at least once a year, and update the inventory of its contents.

If you move out of the area, terminate the box lease, empty the box and turn in the keys. This will prevent the box being listed as "unclaimed" should the bank not locate you after you move.

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