“Renting a bank safe-deposit box can help secure important personal documents, collectibles, and
family heirlooms,” says Paul Bomberger of
bankrate.com, “but it’s important to make
wise decisions about what goes in the box and to stipulate who has access to it.”

Items experts recommend storing in a safety-deposit box include, Bomberger says:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Insurance policies
  • Property deeds
  • Rare coins
  • Jewelry
  • Irreplaceable family photos
  • Stock or bond certificates
  • Foreign currency

Items that should be left out of the box include:

  • Cash (it will not be insured by FDIC)
  • Wills (a court order usually is needed to retrieve it once the box holder dies)*
  • Insurance cards (you need to be able to access these quickly)

When clients of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates request that we keep their documents, we retain their originals in a fireproof area, and we keep electronic copies that are backed up every fifteen minutes.

Who has access to a bank safe-deposit box while the box holder is alive?

  • All people whose names are listed on the signature card at the bank
  • An individual who has power of attorney for the box holder

Who has access after the box holder dies?

  • Anyone who is a co-renter of the box
  • A trustee appointed to oversee assets in the trust. The probate courts may require the items in the personal box to be reviewed under probate to determine if they are qualified as trust assets or not. This is why naming the trust as the owner is the best move.
  • The executor of the estate (but not necessarily immediately)

Many people don’t realize this: a power of attorney loses authority to act on your behalf upon your death.  This means that unless a co-renter is listed on the box, probate will likely be needed to open and access the box’s contents.
At Geyer & Associates, we can assist with the proper management of your documents, and the titling of your assets, including safe deposit boxes.

– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team