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Where Are You Keeping Your Important Documents and Valuables?

August 2014

We all have important documents. Many of us have items that we consider irreplaceable. Do you know where they are? Are they protected from water, fire, and other threats? This month’s report looks at ways you can keep and protect your important items.

What documents are important?

Documents that prove identity, ownership, insurance coverage, and other various legal documents are important. These documents can include but are not limited to:

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Adoption papers
  • Naturalization papers
  • Marriage license/certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Military-discharge/Military ID
  • Real estate titles or deeds
  • Vehicle registration and ownership papers
  • Estate planning papers: wills, trusts, financial powers of attorney, advanced health care directives, durable power of attorney for health care
  • Health Insurance ID card and/or policies
  • Insurance policies: life, property, auto
  • Passport

Protect Your Important Documents and Valuables

  • Store irreplaceable items such as legal documents and valuables in a safe deposit box or home safe.
  • For extra protection, store them in sealed plastic bags or boxes.
  • Keep a list of the contents of the safe deposit box.

You can determine if other documents are important by asking “if the document was lost would I be in trouble?”

Where can you store the documents and valuables?

Some of the documents listed above are not easily replaced. They should be kept in a secure location such as a safe deposit box. For documents that you keep at home, you may want to place them in a water and fireproof box or safe. Store them in sealed plastic bags for additional protection.

Many financial institutions have safe deposit boxes of various sizes for rent. BayPort has safe deposit boxes at many branches. The annual rental fee at BayPort ranges from $25 for a small box to $85 for a large box.

Water and fireproof boxes range in size from small file boxes and chests to small, medium, and large size home safes. Prices can range from under $25 to over $500 depending on size. You can find these products online and at many office supply, discount, and home improvement stores.

What should be stored in a safe deposit box?

A safe deposit box is a good place to store irreplaceable items such as heirlooms, expensive jewelry, collectibles, rare coins, military medals. Many people store detailed family histories including photographs and/or film negatives. Store copies of the appraisal of jewelry, heirlooms, and art work. Store financial documents such as stock and bond certificates. Store an inventory of the contents of your home with pictures and or video. Store copies of digital documents on a CD, portable hard drive, or thumb drives.

What should not be stored in a safe deposit box?

Anything you might need quickly shouldn’t be stored in a safe deposit box such as a will, advanced health care directives, “power of attorney” authorizations, passports. Putting copies of these documents in the safe deposit box is a good idea. Make sure they are clearly labeled as copies.

GetReal Tips

Keep a list of the contents of the safe deposit box. Take pictures of valuables and other items. Make copies of documents. Store these with your papers at home.

Federal Deposit Insurance does not cover the contents of safe deposit boxes, so check with your insurance agent to make sure your valuables are adequately covered.

Don’t forget that you have a safe deposit box. Periodically review the contents and update as needed.

Make sure that someone else, such as your spouse or designated adult children, knows where the safe deposit box is and the home storage location. And what has been stored and where it is stored. You may even want to consider a joint ownership (with a trusted individual) of the safe deposit box, so that another individual has immediate access to the box contents in the event of the incapacity of the primary safe deposit box owner.

There's No Time Like Now To Get Started

Well, you may be thinking, those sound like good ideas, but that's a lot of stuff to get together. Actually, I imagine that you already have many of these important papers or items in one place. If some belong in a safe deposit box, it won't take you long to select those items, make a list, and open a safe deposit box. Peace of mind, at the very least, will make you glad you did.

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