What Goes In a Safe Deposit Box

Things that are valuable often are kept in a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union.  However, the definition of value is different for different people.  So, I went to the source of all knowledge: the internet.  Here’s an internet list I found of what SHOULD be in a safe deposit box:

  1. Copy of your last will and testament
  2. Deeds, titles and insurance papers for your house, car and other personal property
  3. Birth and adoption certificates
  4. Marriage and death certificates
  5. Custody agreement and divorce decrees
  6. Military service records
  7. Passports
  8. Copy of your health information (vaccinations, hospitalizations)
  9. Copy of power-of-attorney forms (if applicable)
  10. Social Security cards
  11. Contracts and other legal papers
  12. A videotape inventory of your household items
  13. Valuable heirlooms

Here’s an internet list I found of what should NOT be in a safe deposit box:

  1. Cash
  2. Passports
  3. Drivers’ licenses
  4. Social Security cards
  5. The original copy of your will (this needs to be somewhere the executor can get to)
  6. Health care directives, such as a living will

Notice that passports and social security cards are in both lists.  What is going on here?  It is primarily that different people have different values and senses of values.

I tend to think a more objective approach is to come up with a framework first.  Here is my take as to what SHOULD be in a safe deposit box:

  1. Things that you will not be looking at and cannot be replaced
  2. Things that are very valuable and you will not be using on a regular basis
  3. Things that will not be needed on a short time frame (ex. Directions for your funeral; access may not be available when needed)
  4. Things of sentimental value that will not be referred to frequently
  5. Here is my take on what should NOT be in a safe deposit box:
  6. Things that can be easily replaced at no or low cost
  7. Things needed often

Working from my take may be more helpful to you than a list.Even working from my take many things will likely fall on the margin between the Should and Should Not list.I would err on the side of safety and put the marginal items in the safe deposit box.If you find you must often go to fetch something from the box you probably should keep that item at home.

Therefore, US Savings Bonds, if inventoried, can easily be replaced – keep home.  Copies of wills can usually be replaced easily – the attorney who drafted it usually has an original copy. Bear in mind: I have heard that most courts will not accept a copy, so you’ll need an original for probate purposes.

Passports can be replaced at minimal cost, but if you frequently travel internationally you might want to keep home. Marriage, birth, death, and adoption certificates can be replaced, but the originals may have sentimental value – marginal decision.  Social Security cards are easily replaced – I have not been asked for mine in many years, but some of my clients have been.

So, there’s no set-in stone list of what should be placed in a safe deposit box.  The list of what should be kept where is largely a personal decision. 

-Harold Sasnowitz

Harold Sasnowitz

Harold Sasnowitz

Harold Sasnowitz CFP®, MBA is a Financial Planner with BCR Wealth Strategies managing the New Jersey office.