|Anything goes in a safe-deposit
Dreyer says he's never heard of a stipulation that
cash shouldn't be kept in a box.
Safe deposit do's and don'ts
So what should you keep in a safe-deposit box?
Jewelry and important papers are probably the most common items.
Originals of birth, marriage and death certificates, deeds, vehicle
titles, stock certificates, bonds, valuable collectibles, and insurance
photos of the contents of your home are some of the things that
should be in a safe-deposit box.
Things, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says, you'd be in big
trouble if you lost.
What shouldn't go in the box are things you would need in an emergency
-- a will, a living will, originals of a "power of attorney"
Take time to read the bank's lease agreement when you rent a safe-deposit
box. If you want the contents insured, check with an insurance agent
to find the appropriate coverage.
Loss of safe-deposit box contents from theft, fire or flood is
very rare, but it does happen. If you're concerned about it, you
may want to consider insuring some items such as jewelry, coins
Insuring the contents
Jean Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute in New York
says banks do not insure the contents of safe-deposit boxes.
Many banks claim they're only liable for loss of contents if you
can prove they were negligent and failed to use reasonable care
to prevent a loss.
"Coverage is available under a homeowner's or renter's insurance
policy, but it's limited to what the policy covers. There's a deductible
in the standard policy and you'd be covered for the disasters listed
in the homeowners policy," says Salvatore.
Salvatore points out that some policies limit off-premises theft.
"It might be 10 percent of the insurance you have. Suppose
you have $70,000 coverage for your possessions, that would give
you $7,000 coverage for off-premises possessions.
"The general things people put in safe-deposit boxes -- jewelry,
coin collections -- have a dollar limit in the policy itself, maybe
$1,000, $2,000 or $5,000, and that's all your jewelry, not per piece,"
says Salvatore. "So, you should have separate coverage -- an
endorsement or floater. That way you insure the items at their appraised
or sale price and there's no deductible."
Salvatore recommends that just as people often make an inventory
of valuable items in their house to keep in the safe deposit box,
they should also make an inventory of what's in their safe-deposit
box and keep it in the house.
Better pay the rent
Many banks automatically deduct the annual safe-deposit box rental
fee from your account, but if yours doesn't or if you don't have
an account with the bank and you forget to pay the bill, the rules
vary from state to state about what happens to the contents.
In Florida, for example, if the rent is three months past due,
the bank sends registered mail to the last known address saying
the box will be opened if the owner doesn't respond within 30 days.
The contents are then inventoried and stored for three years. If
the contents are still unclaimed, they're sent to the state as unclaimed
The state also tries to contact the owner. If no one responds,
the items are sold at auction and the money is put in the state's
school trust fund for use by the public school system. A record
of the proceeds, minus storage fees, is kept in the owner's name.
The owner, or his or her heirs, can claim the proceeds at any time.
There is no statute of limitations.
And, it may be worth your time to check with the unclaimed property
division in your state's banking department to see how long banks
hold unclaimed property -- just in case you forget about that $5,000
stashed in the box.