Safety Deposit Box Rules

by Gregory Hamel ; Updated November 29, 2018
Safe deposit boxes are kept inside bank vaults.

Safety deposit boxes are private, secured storage containers you can rent at banks to store valuables and personal information like financial documents, collectibles, jewelry and family photos. Storing such items in a safe deposit box instead of at home reduces the possibility of losing irreplaceable items due to theft, fires, floods and other disasters. Safety deposit boxes are subject to several rules and regulations related to box storage, access and insurance.

Basic Safety Deposit Box Regulations

The federal government does not have laws governing what you can store in a safety deposit box. It's up to the bank to establish its own rules. The contract you sign when you rent a safe deposit box at a bank might include restrictions that prohibit the storage of certain items, like explosives and other dangerous objects. In practice, banks typically do not monitor what you put in safe deposit boxes, so it is up to you to abide by the rules stated in the contract. If you fail to pay rental fees on a safe deposit box, it can be reported as abandoned and the contents can be turned over to the state.

Who Has Access to the Safety Deposit Box?

Generally, you can choose who has access to your safe deposit box . The bank will allow you to nominate a number of key holders; these persons should be listed on the signature card for the rental of the box. If you are the sole renter of a safe deposit box, then only you and a power-of-attorney or agent you designate can access your box. When you rent a box jointly with another person, either of you can access the contents.

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Bank Safe Deposit Box Rules After Death

Rules for who can access your safe deposit box change after you pass away. If you rent a box with someone else, the joint renter can still access the contents after you die. A power of attorney loses the ability to access a safe deposit box after your death. Instead, the executor or administrator of your estate – a person either you or the court appoints to handle your finances after you pass away – gains access to your safe deposit box. That person will record the contents of your box as part of your estate, use any cash or sellable assets to pay your bills and taxes, then distribute the rest of the contents to the beneficiaries named in your will.

You'll Need Your Own Insurance

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures deposits you make in normal bank accounts, but federal deposit insurance does not apply to safe deposit boxes, even if you use a box to store cash. Banks generally do not provide insurance for the contents of safe deposit boxes either, so you'll need to take out your own insurance policy. Homeowners and renters insurance policies might include coverage for safe deposit boxes; check with your insurance provider.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.

Photo Credits

  • Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images
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