Last week, having that fire in our neighborhood really made me stop and think about some things that I've been putting off doing that would be important in the event of an emergency or death. This week I thought I would do some preparation and run an “In Event Of An Emergency” week, and talk about some things you should do in case of a death, natural disaster, or a fire like we came close to having last week. (Don't forget to make sure you're paying for fire services!)
For quite a while I've been meaning to do one of those “What If I Die” spreadsheets listing all of our important bank account information, life insurance policies, mortgage information, and so on, and put it in our fire safe. I then also realized that there are a lot of other things that we should really be putting in a safer place, like marriage certificates, birth certificates etc.
To kick off “In Event Of An Emergency” week, I thought I'd put together a post listing some of the things that you should consider putting in your safe deposit box or fire safe.
Safe Deposit Box Or Fire Safe?
In doing some research online, there are varying opinions on whether or not people should just get a fire safe and keep their important documents at home, or if they should actually get and pay for a safe deposit box at their local bank branch.
Many of the opinions I read think that a good fire safe in the home should be sufficient, and that for most people it should be enough to cover you in event of a fire. You need to take into account your personal situation, and figure out just how important and valuable your documents and other items you're storing are.
If you still want the added security and safety benefits of having a safe deposit box, renting one can cost anywhere from $20 to $150 a year depending upon the size of the box, and the bank where you're renting it. Do some research to find your best deal, and the bank with which you'll feel most secure.
Just remember, even a bank safe deposit box isn't 100% safe and secure and can still be susceptible to fire, flood, earthquakes or theft.
To find a good home fire safe just make sure you're finding one that is rated for whatever you're storing:
- Document storage safes carry the UL 350 fire rating. (Internal temp of safe won't go above 400 degrees)
- Computer data safes carry a UL 125 or UL 72 rating. (internal temp of safe won't go above 125 or 72 degrees. Lower temps are required for computer disks/drives)
Some examples of home fire safes you can find on Amazon.com are found below.
A more expensive version that is file and computer media safe:
A less expensive version mainly for storing important paper documents (we have one like this):
When storing your documents it is a good idea to put them in waterproof storage containers or bags before putting them in your safe. That way you can ensure they are safe from moisture in the event of flooding or sprinklers going off during a fire. (Don't forget to check the batteries in your smoke detectors and that you have a fire extinguisher handy as well! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!)
What Should I Keep In My Safe Deposit Box Or Fire Safe?
Once you've purchased a fire safe or rented a safe deposit box (or both), the next step is to put together a list of all the things you want to store in there.
One note that I've read in multiple places is that you should probably never keep the originals of important legal documents that people may need access to in your safe deposit box. Instead, keep the originals in a good fire safe at home, and keep copies in your safe deposit box. The reason for this is spelled out on seekingalpha.com
Don't put original wills, trust instruments, or powers of attorney in a safe deposit box. Instead, keep these in a fireproof safe at home or at your attorney’s office.
Why? When someone dies, a safe deposit box may be sealed for weeks, which could result in result in delays. You might even have to spend money securing a court order to open the box. Further, and here's the Catch-22: the will's executor will not be able to get to the box without the will that shows that he is indeed, the executor, resulting in headaches and delays.
So, just to be clear: Don't put original copies of legal documents in a safe deposit box if they will be needed by anyone who cannot gain access to them. As we said before, feel free to put copies of legal documents in the safe deposit box.
Here is a list I put together of some things you may want to consider adding to your safe deposit box or fire safe.
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificate
- Social Security Cards
- Copy of health information (vaccinations, hospitalizations)
- College degrees
- Copy of “What If I Die” spreadsheet listing important account information, insurance policies, etc.
Property and Insurance
- Stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit.
- Original deeds to property and vehicles.
- Rare jewels or family jewelry.
- Videotape/DVD/thumb drive inventory of house. (Use a software like the one found on http://www.iii.org)
- Receipts for big-ticket items like furnishings
- Your homeowner’s insurance contract.
- Receipts for home improvements
Those are a few things that you should consider adding to your safe deposit box and/or fire safe.
Are there things that you think should be included that weren't on this list? Let us know about it in the comments!