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Why Do I Need a Safe Deposit Box? A Guide To Safe Deposit Boxes

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/4/2010

Have you ever considered getting a safe deposit box, but want to learn more about them first? Read this article to find out why you need one, what to store in it, and what to avoid storing in it.

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    What is a Safe Deposit Box?

    Safe deposit boxes are rented from banks and other facilities for storing sensitive and irreplaceable documents and other items. It is important to understand the rules and regulations behind safe deposit boxes to ensure the contents are accessible by the people who need them, when they need them. Different states have different rules about who can access the box and when. If you need someone else to have access to the box contents, it is best to open the box account jointly. Always indicate who should have access to the contents in the event of your death in a Last Will and Testament.

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    Why Do I Need a Safe Deposit Box?

    You need a safe deposit box to protect items and documents from natural disaster and theft. It will prevent you from losing the important documents in a move, or from accidentally throwing the documents away.

    What should I put in the box?

    Anything that would be hard to replace if lost or damaged, or anything that would cause trouble if lost or damaged. Keep any insurance policy originals, any birth, marriage, or death certificates and information you would otherwise not want to lose if your home were to burn down or flood.

    What should I leave out of the box?

    Don't put anything in the box you would need during hours the bank is closed, or in the case of an emergency. Don't put your Will in the box, or your power of attorney, as these are documents that may be required for others to access the box in the event you die or become incapacitated. Give the originals of these important documents to your attorney, or a close trusted family member or friend, and keep copies in the box.

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    What about Safe Deposit Box Insurance?

    The FDIC doesn't insure box contents from loss, damage or theft. It is important to consider before placing items into a safe deposit box whether or not your homeowner's insurance policy will cover those items. Though these boxes are resistant to fire and water damage, they are not always 100%. Take precautions to protect the documents from the elements, such as using an airtight or watertight container to store the items in, inside the box.