Should we all have a bank safe deposit box?
I have a small bank safe deposit box. It is the size like the picture above. I have had it for years. I am positive that is the safest way to keep important documents. If you keep a lock box at your home then it can be stolen, burned in a fire or blown away in a tornado. But I think the safe deposit box rooms at the bank are fire-proof and pretty solid. Where do people keep their valuable items that don’t use the bank? I am really curious. I don’t have a lot of expensive things or family heirlooms. But I do have things that I don’t want to lose. The things in my safe deposit box are; birth certificates of my daughter and I, our passports, pictures downloaded on CD’s, coins from Jordan and Egypt, passwords and other original certificates/ licenses.
You probably shouldn’t put your will in a bank safe-deposit box, says Jerry Stevenson, the managing attorney of the Stevenson Law Group in San Diego. But Stevenson says many people do keep their will in the box. In such cases, a court order usually is needed to retrieve it once the safe-deposit box holder dies. “They think it’s the best place because it’s a very safe place, but it’s the worst place,” says Stevenson, whose firm handles tax and estate issues.
It isn’t a good idea in most cases to store cash in a safe-deposit box. Cash kept in a safe-deposit box is not insured by the federal government under Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC rules. It’s recommended to keep items out of a safe-deposit box if you suspect you may need to retrieve them in an emergency, or if your survivors are likely to need them immediately after you die.
If you rent the box only in your name, you, a power-of-attorney or agent you designate are the only ones who can get into the locked box, Stevenson says. I don’t have a power of attorney and don’t want one. A safe-deposit box rented jointly with a spouse, child or friend means those people also have access. I guess I need to have my daughter’s name put on mine. Oops. Glad I’m doing this research.
Experts say it’s wise to have a designated power of attorney to handle your financial affairs — including access to your box — in case you are unable to because you are disabled or traveling, among other reasons. “If you have a power of attorney, getting into your safe-deposit box won’t be a problem,” Stanganelli says. Most banks keeps a master-key for the boxes in its branches and the customer has a key. However, the bank doesn’t open the boxes without the customer present. Anyone who is a co-renter of the box has immediate access to it upon your death.
But what if you are the sole renter of the box? People often are confused about who can gain entry to the box. Many wrongly believe a power of attorney has access to the box after you die. However, a power of attorney loses authority to act on your behalf upon your death, Stevenson says. Wow. Who would’ve thought! An executor or executrix that you designated to handle your estate after you die would get access to your safe-deposit box, but how quickly depends on the state you live in and the bank, Stanganelli says.
It’s possible to speed that process in certain states by having a “temporary executor clause” in a will, he says. In such instances, the executor can obtain a court order quickly after your death to access the box while your estate is going through probate. If you legally appoint a trustee to oversee assets placed in trust before you die, that individual also would have access to the safe-deposit box upon your death.