Row of Safe Deposit BoxesCredit: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Wikimedia Commons

Steps to Rent A Safe Deposit Box

While there is never a 100% guarantee that your  last will and testament, deeds of sale, heirloom jewelry, or other important documents and valuables will be safe from harm, a safe deposit box offers a higher degree of protection generally than your home or office. 

Here are the basic steps necessary for renting a safe deposit box at a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.

1. Make a list of the items or documents you wish to store in a safe deposit box. You may want to include items such as patent papers, legal documents, rare coin and stamp collections, fine jewelery and other family heirlooms.  Note: Passports, Power of Attorney, Do Not Resucitate, or other legal documents that you may need in the event of an emergency should not be stored in a safe deposit box since access to them is only available during normal banking hours.

2. Decide who should also have access. You can jointly rent a safe deposit box with another family member (such as your spouse, parent or child). Keep in mind though, you can't just give an extra key to someone and expect them to be able to easily gain access to a safe deposit box registered in your name. Someone listed as a joint or co-renter can access the box without being accompanied by a bank representative, however, you also have the choice of naming a deputy or agent, that can be granted access in the presence of a bank employee. In general, legal identification (passport, driver's license, etc.) is required for anyone to gain access.

3. Decide what size box you'll be needing. Common safe deposit box sizes range from a small 2x5 box to a substantial 10x10 box. You may also want to ask about rental rates at more than one financial institution, as the rental amounts can vary greatly.

4. Fill out the rental agreement per the bank's requirements. You will most likely be required to provide proof of identity of  anyone listed on the account.  You'll also need to pay the appropriate fees at the time the safe deposit rental agreement is activated. Some banks and credit unions will allow rental fees to be charged on a monthly or annual basis if you have an existing account with them.

5. Once you have secured a safe deposit box, be sure to keep an up-to-date inventory list. You may want to include digital pictures as well as written documentation. Keep one copy in your safe deposit box, and one copy with your other important papers. If you are assigned a key for your box, be sure to keep it in a safe place. Replacement keys can be obtained through the bank, although there is generally a fee. Insure the contents of the box through your Homeowner's policy or other insurance.  Safe deposit boxes are NOT COVERED by FDIC.