What’s in the Safe?

Many individuals and families store valuable assets and documents in bank safe-deposit boxes. But is that the best place?

As long as the renters of a safe-deposit box are alive, it probably is. But if the owner of the box’s contents dies, problems can occur, because many states and countries seal the box. This means no one can open or inventory the box until the bank receives a court or government order—which takes time and money. In other states and countries, safe-deposit boxes are not sealed, but one of the owners must sign an approval card to gain access to the box. Your financial institution can tell you which law applies in your state or country.

Where only one owner’s signature is required to access a box, one solution is to add a third or fourth name to an approved list or signature card. But stories are plentiful about boxes being raided both before and after an owner’s demise by those having access to its contents. A better solution is to store in another place documents requiring immediate action after the owner’s death—with a trusted adviser or family member.

Items not to be stored in a safe-deposit box:

Original copies of wills, trusts, and other legal documents. While some argue that these documents should be placed in a bank vault for safekeeping, their ready-reference is an equally important issue. Documents pertaining to your last will and testament could be kept in a safe place at home or with your attorney, executor, accountant, or financial planner.

Mortuary and cemetery information. This information will be needed immediately after your death, so it must be readily accessible. This is particularly important if you have prepaid your funeral costs.

Funeral instructions. Funeral instructions locked in a sealed box won’t do any good. Give them to a trusted family member, and be sure to review and update them regularly.

Cash. Hoarding significant amounts of cash presents two problems: (1) The currency becomes a nonearning asset because its value does not keep up with tax or inflation rates. (2) Its presence may suggest an intent to evade income and estate taxes.

Property belonging to others. Unregistered bearer bonds belonging to a friend or jewelry belonging to a sister may be inadvertently included in your estate and passed on to your heirs if they are found in your safe-deposit box. Imagine the difficulty the owner will have trying to prove otherwise when you, the key witness, are deceased.

Items to store in a safe-deposit box:

Insurance policies. It is wise to store life, property, and casualty insurance policies outside your home to prevent them from being destroyed by a fire or natural disaster. Along with each life insurance policy, you may want to store certified copies of your birth and marriage certificates. (These are officially stamped by a governmental unit, such as a state, country, or province.) Insurance companies often require these documents to prove that you were really the age you claimed to be and that you were legally married to whom you claimed you were. If you have already obtained these certified documents, your survivors need only add a certified death certificate when each policy is surrendered.

Personal papers. Besides birth and marriage certificates, it is prudent to keep citizenship documents and proof of military service in your safe-deposit box. Family histories and genealogical records can also be stored there.

Collectibles. Stamps, coins, medals, gems, jewelry, precious metals, heirlooms, and other prized collectibles can be kept safe in your box. Keep an inventory of these items in another place.

Securities. Stock certificates, bonds, and other securities, whether they are registered in your name or to the bearer, may profitably be kept in a safe-deposit box. In some countries, rent paid for a safe-deposit box is tax deductible when securities are stored there. (Certificates of deposit may also be stored, but they are not considered a security, and fees for their storage are not tax deductible.)

Original contracts and mortgages. Your deeds, mortgages, court decrees, leases, business contracts, and other such papers can also be kept in your box.

Finally, since a bank’s insurance policy does not generally cover the contents of safe-deposit boxes, the box’s renter must cover the contents through private insurance, such as a homeowner’s policy. And make certain someone besides you (or you and your spouse, if applicable) knows where your safe-deposit box is located and where the key can be found.Roger M. Smedley, Certified Financial Planner, Salt Lake City, Utah

“Grandpa, Tell Me about the Olden Days”

“What is the craziest thing you remember doing as a kid?” This question had Grandpa Dalton telling a hilarious story of how he had to hang a cow with a broken leg from a sling in a tree—for a month!—while the leg healed. That was just one of the memorable moments that came from our “Getting to Know Your Grandparents” night.

I planned the event because I wanted my children to learn more about their grandparents’ lives. One Monday, for family home evening, we invited both sets of grandparents to our house for dinner. After we ate, we all gathered in the family room and our children asked their grandparents questions about their growing-up years. I made up a list of sample questions to stimulate their thinking; for example, What do you remember about your grandparents? Do you remember riding in a wagon drawn by horses?

We also looked at old photographs I had asked the grandparents to bring; this let us see some of the people they talked about as well as some of the events.

We concluded the evening by taking pictures of everyone in different groupings. We also recorded the event on an audiocassette to add to our family history.Jonna D. Fife, Gridley, California

Anniversaries—Home Style

Not enough money and too many children. Those were the excuses we used for staying home on our anniversary year after year. Finally, though, I realized that being practical and being uncreative didn’t have to go together. So I came up with some ideas for celebrating at home that can be even more memorable than an evening out.

For the truly adventurous, try something different on your anniversary. You might:

  1. 1.

    Make kites and fly them.

  2. 2.

    Pull taffy.

  3. 3.

    Have a bubble-blowing contest.

  4. 4.

    Camp in the backyard.

  5. 5.

    Study up on a part of the world you’ve always wanted to visit but couldn’t afford to. Then plan your day or evening (including food, music, and activities) around what is customary in that area.

If you have more conservative tastes and want to celebrate simply, you might try some of these ideas:

  1. 1.

    Sip hot chocolate while setting goals for the coming year.

  2. 2.

    Buy or make your spouse one of his or her favorite foods. Wrap it up, then open and eat it later in the evening.

  3. 3.

    Write each other a love note and share it during or after a candlelight dinner.

  4. 4.

    Watch the stars come out and reminisce about the past year.

  5. 5.

    Have an outdoor breakfast at sunrise.

  6. 6.

    Fill a picnic basket with cheese, crackers, meat spreads, and fruit. Have a picnic in the backyard or in front of the fireplace.

  7. 7.

    Bear your testimonies to each other.

  8. 8.

    Read an article together and discuss it.

When unavoidable schedule conflicts arise—important Church assignments, business trips, or illnesses—reschedule your anniversary celebration instead of dumping it altogether. The days are not nearly as important as the chance to be together and celebrate your marriage.Kathryn Jones, Murray, Utah

Soap in a Sock

Tired of gooey soap when you’re camping? Next trip, leave that messy soap holder at home! Instead, slide a bar of soap into the toe of a nylon stocking (use a knee-high stocking or cut a twelve-inch length from a pair of pantyhose) and tie a knot in the end. The nylon covering the soap acts as a scrubber for hands, knees, or whatever else is extra dirty. Tie or loop the knotted end of the stocking over a branch or clothesline, and the soap and nylon will dry in a short time.Judith M. Paller, Salt Lake City, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer