The very items we often keep in a home safe may the ones that shouldn’t be there, such as valuables that aren’t inventoried, documents you rarely need, and large sums of cash. Other items such as insurance documents and priceless heirlooms also need to be stored in a safe place, but which valuables are best protected in a fireproof, gun safe at home, and which belong in a safety deposit box at a bank? Let’s take a look.
Generally, anything of value to you — but not to a thief — can be stored in a home safe. Take other irreplaceable items to the bank. Things you should keep in a home safe include: Social Security cards passports, insurance policies and “power of attorney” documents. Since banks are not open 24/7, a good home safe is a better place to keep these key documents. However, burglars could easily break into your home, force you to open the safe, or haul off the entire thing before breaking into a bank and swiping your safety deposit box. This is why many experts insist that your fireproof home safe be anchored to the wall or floor, so your personal documents and/or high-price items should be secure enough.
Your last will and testament should also be protected inside a home safe. Unless you have an estate attorney who will hold the original will documents for you, keep this paperwork in a fireproof home safe and give the combination or spare key to a trusted person who doesn’t live with you. If you absolutely must store it at the bank, prevent delays by making sure in advance the executors are named in the document.
Vintage photographs, old-school camera negatives, stamp collections, and small amounts of emergency cash-- these are the kinds of items that should go into resealable plastic bags to reduce risk of water damage, then into either a media or fireproof safe.
Until someone is ready to wear it, Grandma’s engagement ring should be secured in a bank box. While it’s okay to store a reasonable amount of emergency cash in a home safe, large sums should be in a bank account where it can earn interest. Don’t sock away a lot of cash in a bank deposit box, because FDIC insurance only covers cash deposited in bank accounts. (Since the bank won’t cover losses from a safe deposit box, talk with your home insurance or renter’s insurance carrier if you’d like to insure valuables stored there.)
Other items that belong in a safety deposit box include the deed to your home, birth certificates, and car titles. According to the FDIC, U.S. Savings Bonds that haven’t been converted into electronic securities should also be stored at the bank. Also, if you take pictures or shoot video of personal property for insurance purposes, such as proof of ownership after a fire, you should store the media in a bank box, not at home.
Lastly, information stored on physical computer media (discs, USBs, or external hard drives) should go in the bank box. The bank’s vault won’t be susceptible to extreme temperatures or magnetic interference that could erase data. Physical media would typically be a backup for critical data on a computer or tablet, or home-cloud storage systems (these are essentially just an external hard drive with Wi-Fi capability), which could be destroyed in a fire.
Understanding where to keep a safe in your home is an excellent way to make sure the wrong people don’t find your most prized possessions. It also makes accessing your belongings quick and easy. Before choosing a place, take into account what you’ll be using the safe for; will it be holding expensive jewelry, stacks of cash, or valuable family antiques? Tuck these away in a safe in your master bedroom/bathroom or within your closet. Keeping your safe in an easy-to-access location will encourage you to use it. Also think about how frequently you’ll be using your safe. If you plan on keeping valuable everyday items inside of the safe, like a wallet or your camera, then keep it in a spot you can easily get to. No one wants to crawl into the depths of an attic or basement each day to retrieve something. If your safe weighs over 1,000 pounds, it belongs on the first floor of your home to prevent damage. If you’re concerned about the size of the safe you are purchasing, speak to a professional for assistance.
Not all safes are the same and therefore need to be treated differently. For example, safes with electronic locks should not be in rooms with high moisture levels or humidity. This includes garages, basements, bathrooms, or laundry rooms. Humidity or moisture can contribute to the locks failing to work. An excellent spot to keep your fireproof safe is on the hard floor in your garage or basement.
Lauren Slade is a Dallas-based writer and editor.
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