10 Items You Should Never Keep in a Safe Deposit Box

A safe deposit box is a great place to keep some things safe, but other things don't belong here.
Updated April 3, 2023
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Open safe deposit box with money jewels and golden ingot

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A safe deposit box is the perfect place to store certain valuables. You can use this storage option to house important documents and items. It’s an essential location to protect gold and other valuables, for example, and having this safety can be one of the best ways to reduce money stress.

But some documents and items shouldn’t be kept in your safe deposit box precisely because you need them to be more easily accessible to you and loved ones. Think twice about keeping these items in your safe deposit box.

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Your will

zimmytws/Adobe last will

Don't store your will in a safe deposit box. When you die, the only people who will be allowed to access your safe deposit box are those designated in the will to do so.

If no one can get to your will, no one can open your safe deposit box. You can see the problem. Keep your will someplace where it will be found easily when you die. Keep the keys to your safe deposit box someplace safe outside your safe deposit box.


zimmytws/Adobe Hiding Money in Mattress

Unless the cash is valuable because it’s unusual or special in some way — such as a rare coin — and not for the face value, stashing cash in a safe deposit box is about as sensible as stashing it under your mattress. It can only lose value in a safe deposit box since it can’t accrue interest.

You’re better off depositing cash into an investment fund that will allow the value of the money to grow. Or at the very least, move the money into an interest-bearing savings account. Squirreling away cash may have made a small amount of sense during the Great Depression, but it’s probably not a good plan now.

Pro tip: If you put your cash into a bank account, make sure it’s one of the best savings accounts so you can earn more interest.

Keys to something important

abf/Adobe  bunches of keys on rings

Putting the keys to something unconnected to your estate or finances in your safe deposit box can be a recipe for disaster. You’re likely to forget where they are when you need them. Or perhaps you will need them at a time that you can’t access the safe deposit box.

What if you die and no one else knows where those keys are — and then when they open the box, they don’t know what the keys are for? It’s better to keep important keys someplace safe in your house or with another person who knows what they are for.


Pau Novell/Adobe security metal safe with pearl necklace

Jewelry is made to be worn, so unless it’s from Harry Winston or truly irreplaceable, don’t keep your jewelry locked up in your safe deposit box. Wear it, or give it to someone you love to wear and enjoy it.

And if you do have irreplaceable or extremely expensive jewelry stored in your safe deposit box, make sure you also have it insured. Keeping jewelry in a safe deposit box doesn’t automatically mean it's insured.

Original trust documents

Victor Moussa/Adobe message in a glass bottle with a cork washing away on sandy beach

Original trust documents are just like a will: if they get locked in a safe deposit box and then the person who owns the box dies, the only way for another person to get access to the safe deposit box is to be listed on the original trust documents.

So, you don’t want these documents locked in the safe deposit box. Keep your original trust documents in a safe place outside of your safe deposit box, or keep them on file with the lawyer who executed the documents for you. You’ll know where they are when you need them, and they won’t become inaccessible.

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Medical power-of-attorney document

golibtolibov/Adobe Filling durable financial Power of Attorney Form

This could actually be a matter of life or death: Don't store your medical power-of-attorney documents in a safe deposit box. A medical power of attorney is a document that specifies who is allowed to make medical decisions for you if you become unconscious or incapacitated.

You can put a copy of the document in the safe deposit box, but in a crisis, the people you have designated as your medical POAs need to access the documents instantly. There is no risk of having too many copies of your medical POA floating around, and a high risk of not having a copy accessible if something happens to you.

You should keep one easily accessible copy of this document in your house, a copy with anyone who is designated on the document, and one with other loved ones.


yobab/Adobe US Passport on the world map

You are more likely to need a passport and not be able to get it from your safe deposit box in time than you are to lose it and wish it had been in the box.

A passport is most likely to be stolen directly from you or from something like a hotel room while you’re traveling outside of the country. So, keeping a passport in a safe deposit box when you’re not traveling doesn’t reduce the risk of theft.

It’s much better to educate yourself about how to avoid having your passport stolen or swindled than to worry about where you store it when you’re at home.

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COVID-19 vaccination card

Simone/Adobe gloved hands adding booster dose to a Covid 19 vaccination card

You may need to show your vaccination card occasionally, so keep it in a desk drawer, on the refrigerator at home, or in your wallet. If you lose it, you can get another copy from the official registry.

Perhaps if we’re lucky, COVID-19 will be just a memory in the future. At that time, you can store it in your safe deposit box as a historical document. But for now, while you still need it for daily life, keep the vaccination card where you can access it easily.

Loaded weapons, liquids, and explosives

gwolters/Adobe Person putting firearm in gun safe

If you can't carry an item through security at an airport, you probably shouldn’t store it in your safe deposit box.

There are much better places to keep this kind of stuff that don’t endanger bank employees and that won’t leak and ruin the rest of the items in your box accidentally.

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Instructions or directions to loved ones

Thomas Perkins/Adobe love letter

Write up anything you want your loved ones to know about how you want your funeral to unfold. Tell them what they need to know about distributing your estate, and anything else you want to tell them.

Then, make copies of these directives and put them where they’ll be easily found when you die, not in your safe deposit box.

Imagine how sad your loved ones would be to fumble through planning your funeral only to discover that you had actually left instructions.

Bottom line

Paul Maguire/Adobe filing

Keeping your essential medical and estate planning documents outside your safe deposit box and easily accessible to your heirs can help your loved ones avoid money mistakes, and avoid wasting time and energy when you die.

You’ve made an effort to build your wealth your whole life, so don’t make a few simple logistical errors that will be costly for your heirs to rectify.

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Author Details

Elizabeth Rollins Elizabeth Rollins has degrees in literature and business, and she's combined these loves into a career in writing about personal finance. Her special areas of interest are debt, value, budgeting, education, and retirement.

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