Safe Deposit Boxes: Do you need one? What should you put in it?

by | Oct 6, 2015 | Estate Planning

We frequently get questions about safe deposit boxes from clients. Read on to see our recommendations…

Do you need a safe deposit box?

Safe deposit boxes are nice to have, mostly because of the problems that at-home safes can cause. If you have a fireproof safe at home:

  • Do your kids/family know how to get into it?
  • Is it bolted down?
  • What if someone breaks into your home and walks away with it?

These things are generally not an issue with a safe deposit box kept at a bank.

How much do safe deposit boxes cost?

We called the Bank of Springfield (notice the date of the post, prices subject to change) to check on their prices at their Wabash Branch, and here is what you can expect from them:

  • 3×5 box is $20/yr
  • 3×10 is $30/yr
  • 5×10 is $50/yr
  • 10×10 is $100/yr

So, what should you put in your safe deposit box?

First and foremost, your current original will should be at the top of the list for your safe deposit box. (Not a copy. THE original.)

Many people keep real estate records in their safe deposit boxes, but that is not necessary, because all of those documents are available at the courthouse.

Valuable heirloom items like jewelry and coins are also good things to keep in safe deposit boxes.

Other important papers like original birth certificates, Veteran discharge paperwork, pre-nuptial agreements and divorce decrees should be kept in the safe deposit box as well.

Any paperwork that may impact the future should be kept there – mainly so that you’ll know exactly where that important paperwork is kept.

How can my family access the box?

The executor of your estate or your Power of Attorney should be able to easily access the safe deposit box when needed. But even without either of those, the state of Illinois has a statute that requires banks to look inside the safe deposit box for the will, if a will is not found anywhere else. The bank must then file the will with the court.

Should your children be “co-owners” of the box?

This really depends on your family dynamic and what you keep in the box. If your child is co-owner of the box, then they can access the box whenever they want or need to. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing.) So, this really depends on your unique family situation.

We had a case once where the child was a co-owner of the safe deposit box and didn’t like what was in the will, so they got in and destroyed the will.

We say it all the time, “Bad estate planning breaks up good families.” We help guide our clients in making decisions related to planning everyday. We have the experience that most people don’t.

As always, if you have any questions about estate planning, elder law or related issues, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in any way that we can!

[Photo by Jeroen van Luin via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.]