Disaster Prevention-safety deposit boxes

jessica_ohAugust 21, 2004

We were recently struck by lightening. While many items were ruined, we were lucky enough not to have a fire. But it got me to thinking, "what if??" So I decided that we needed a safety deposit box.

But what do you put in one?? What have you all done??



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We keep our wills, health care power of attorney, deeds to land, titles to cars in our fire safe. It would also be good to keep a list of items you would for an insurance claim.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 8:32AM
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This is actually on my to-do for this week. I have already put important papers in my safety-deposit box. This week I plan to video-tape the contents of the house.

My father does photos, since he does not have a camera.

Either way is good. In the event of total loss, it would be impossible to quantify belongings to a claims adjuster who has never seen your house.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 6:20AM
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In our safe deposit box, I have a list of every account # (mortgage, credit cards, insurance) and contact phone numbers. I have done this so if something happens to our home records (or to us!), there will be a complete list without having to wonder what might not have been thought of.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 9:21AM
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I investigated and found that in my immediately neighborhood, there either were no boxes, or they were expensive. So I got one of those fire-safe boxes, and put it down in the basement (fires travel up).

Having a box in your immediate neighborhood might be a bad idea; a fire or power shortage or devastating storm that hits you may hit them. (I live ina city, so the concept of a fire torching the whole place is easier to imagine). Maybe you've be better off getting a close relative that lives an hour's drive away (or more), or whom you visit at least once a year, to hold your firesafe box for you. Then you can have them get you the info you need, if your house burns down.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 1:37PM
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One thing you need to remember if you have a safe deposit box -- when you die, the box is sealed, and everything in there is inventoried as part of your estate.

If you have things in there that you don't want as part of the probate process before going to your heirs (jewelry, gold, collectibles), consider getting that stuff to them before you die.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 1:40PM
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it also means that if that's the ONLY place your life insurance info is, or your bank info is, then people can't get to it easily.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 11:55AM
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Thanks everyone,

So here's what I'm thinking. Copies of all wills, insurance polocies, bonds, etc. DVD of all our home items for insurance purchases. Back up cd of all our digital pics (we almsot lost 15months of ds's life in pics when the lightening hit, but luckily were able to retreive them). A list of all credit card numbers and contact numbers.

Not sure about birth certificates, those aren't tough to get are they??

SS cards probably with identity theft so bad (or maybe just in a lock box in the house in case we need it for a job or something.)

Appraisals on all the jewelery I own (not much).

A second key to box given to mom in another town.

Am I missing anything??

And box is located at credit union, just outside of our city limits inside a vault, should be fairly secure. I believe.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   August 24, 2004 at 12:12PM
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Our next door neighbor's home burned down two years ago. It was a horrible emotional ordeal that I hope I never experience or witness again. It really puts your priorities in order. The firemen were able to retrieve the little firesafe box from the house quite easily and the homeowners were quite happy that they were able to retrieve what little was in the box.

A little off-topic: As the firemen pulled charred items out of the house we neighbors attempted to save them from additional water damage by laying things out on our lawns to dry. They had used an old ice chest to store pictures in and those pictures came out of the house fire virtually perfect. The ice chest protected the pictures from both fire and water damage. I think this is be a unique way to protect pictures from disaster.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 3:11PM
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Alexina Properties

My attorney advised me to never keep our will in the safety deposit box. If you wish, keep a copy in the safe deposit box (you can have it notarized as a true and accurate copy) and keep the original in a fire safe in your house.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2004 at 9:06PM
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Usually your lawyer can or will keep a copy of the will on file.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 10:22PM
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Keep in mind that in extreme cases, the items in your safe deposit box can also be destroyed. There were several bank branches downtown at the WTC that were destroyed, and the banks had limited ability to recover belongings held in safe deposit boxes. As I recall, few people got anything back, and even then it was months.

Admittedly, that was an extreme event, but I now keep a safe deposit box outside of my own part of town.

Inconvenient, but another measure of redundancy in the event of a large scale event.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 7:09PM
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You can also just scan these things into your computer, copy them to CDs and give them to several people to keep. Usually you don't need originals of these things, or if you do, you'll be able to get them with the copies.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:02PM
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Problem with keeping a will at your lawyers is that they can move, retire or die like the rest of us. Make sure your executor is made aware of which lawyer you use if you do this. It needs to be accessible. Unless you can prove you are the executor, a bank won't give you access even if you have a key. One way around this is to get a joint safety deposit box and put your GIC's, saving/checking accounts etc into joint accounts but you really HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TRUST the person that you do this with. My Mother did this with Heather and I and it really made things so easy to deal with after she passed away. Because she owned no property and left her car to my sister in the will, there was no probate needed. Everything was settled within weeks instead of years. Be prepared to take the original copy of the will and the death certificate to the bank. They will make their own copy. (At least in Canada)

P.S. I got her cat "PC" - perfect cat. The one thing I cherished.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 10:24AM
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If you get a safety deposit box (usually at a bank) make very sure that someone other than your spouse knows which bank you use. When my aunt died and I was winding up her affairs, I found a safety deposit box key on her key ring. We have dozens of banks locally. I NEVER found out where that key belonged. She may have closed the box years before since the banks I contacted had no record of her. but I will always wonder.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 8:03AM
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Safe deposit boxes are not sealed anymore when someone dies. Just in case it's different in your state, make sure that someone with a key gets there at bank opening hours.

Executors/xs need to have a copy of the will, as well as the attorney, but it wouldn't hurt if someone else also has one.

Vital records - birth, death, marriage, divorce papers are easy to get copies of.

Deeds are kept at county courthouses. No biggie to get copies.

Stock certs should ALWAYS be in 'Street Name'.. a brokerage house, not an outfit like Equifax,,, such a hassle to get the certs to put into a brokerage. Please, don't keep certs in the safe... my folks did and I did a year of back and forth with the equiserve kind of folks and they never did get it straight.

Accounts: send all accounts, user names, passwords, etc. to a trusted relative. Put them in an envelope taped up with "If I die" scribbled across the seal. Put that in a larger envelope. You'll soon find out if this relative is trustworthy or not!! LOL.

joann23456 summed it up nicely.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2005 at 12:16AM
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Don't just give a key to your mom in another town. Have her fill out a signature card so that she is authorized to get into the box whether you're dead or alive (...presuming you trust her!).

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 3:24AM
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I think the best idea for backing up would be via 3 different schemes.

one would be the firesafe in the home, with all the important info, pictures scanned to cd, etc. Freezer with pics. For the ultra paranoid, one can bury the said freezer and safe.

Second would be the local bank, with everything that was in the safe. The ultra paranoid could make this bank in a different city, state, or country.

Third would be the internet. There are many websites that offer strictly backup services, though I wouldn't trust them too much. I currently have yahoo and 2 gigs of space. With proper scanning of deeds, wills, itemised lists and whatever else (could probably fit low resolution pictures) which are then compressed into parts, encrypted, and renamed to something of less value, would be the best way to back up. Arbitrarily named files would make 'hackers' ignore them, encryption makes it so that only you can get to them, and web hosting services usually provide backups adding more to the redundancy. The ultra paranoid could locate this storage on the other side of the globe, or in space :D

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 2:42AM
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If you decide to keep a fire safe in your basement, make sure it's not sitting on the floor. I don't know how watertight they are, and the amount of water used in a good house fire will overwhelm your floor drain.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 4:57PM
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