Hollywood spy thrillers and heist movies portray safe ownership as a luxury enjoyed only by the rich or the criminal. But most people have valuable items or documents that could benefit from secure storage in an at-home safe.
As you decide what to put inside your safe, use this list as a starting point. Everything described here has an irreplaceable or near-irreplaceable quality that makes it a good candidate for safe storage.
Documents and Vital Records
Safes work well as a central document storage location because they protect these papers against theft and fire damage at the same time. Space inside a safe can be a limited commodity, though, so keep only the most important and hard-to-replace documents inside.
- Birth certificates. The government and some private groups require a birth certificate as a form of identity verification. You may need it to prove citizenship, obtain a driver’s licence, or apply for a passport. If you lose your birth certificate, you can get a new one, but the process for doing so can be complicated and time-consuming. You avoid that hassle when you keep birth certificates for you and your family members in your safe.
- Passports. Unless you travel internationally on a regular basis, your passport should stay in your at-home safe. Not only will this protect it against fire and theft, but you’ll know its location when you need to access it for an upcoming trip.
- Legal documents. Everyone’s life touches the law in some way, and you can’t easily replace legal documents because they usually have original signatures on them. Some legal papers you might want in your safe are:
- Powers of attorney
- Living wills
- Health care proxies
- Your marriage certificate
- Divorce papers
- Death certificates
- Financial papers. Similar to legal documents, financial papers accumulate for everyone. They contain exact figures and sometimes even proof of investment, as with stocks or bonds, so take steps to secure them against fire and theft. Your safe is a good storage place for financial documents such as:
- Retirement plans
- Investment records such as stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit
- Employment contracts
- Tax information for a personal business
- Emergency cash. While a home safe is not a good place for your life’s savings, you might want to keep a little emergency cash inside it. In a disaster or after a crisis, you may not have time or the ability to get to the bank.
You can keep items of significant value, either financial or sentimental, in a safe. They’ll be in a central, easy-to-access location when you need them, but they’ll also be safely inaccessible to thieves or curious hands. Remember to secure your home safe somehow; if you don’t, a thief can take it and its contents, rendering its anti-theft properties useless.
- Jewellery. Whether it’s a family heirloom or a valuable treasure you wear only occasionally, jewellery deserves a place in your home safe. Storing these items in a safe protects them against theft or being misplaced. It also gives you easy access to them when you want to wear them.
- Collectibles. If you have a collection you use as a back-up retirement fund, consider keeping it in a safe. You may not be ready to part with these items yet, but a thief might not leave the choice up to you, especially if they’re portable. Though the size of collections and individual collectibles varies, you can find a safe to accommodate your needs.
- Safe deposit box keys. Some people have both a safe deposit box at the bank and an at-home safe. You’ll always know where the key to the bank box is if you keep it in a secure safe.
- Computer-stored version of all family photos. While many photos are purely digital now, you probably still have family photo albums somewhere in your home. Ensure you have them in the future by creating back-up copies and storing them on a thumb drive or other external storage drive in your safe.
Information Regarding What Happens if You Die
Although it’s not fun to think about the prospect, you need to take precautions for what happens in the event of your death. As long as someone else knows the safe’s code or has a key, you can keep this information in your safe. In there, it stays out of sight and, therefore, out of mind but still exists, just in case it’s needed.
- The original copy of your will. This is probably the most important document you store in your safe. Your partner or will executor needs to know this document’s location. Make sure to replace it with the most recent version any time you alter or update it.
- Contact information for your lawyer, insurance agent, financial advisor, doctor and others. With most contact information available online nowadays, you don’t need this list for yourself. However, if anything happened to you, family members and friends may need to contact these parties. A quick reference sheet can help them act fast in a time of crisis.
A safe helps you prepare for and protect yourself against theft, fire and death. Get the most out of your home safe by storing these items inside.