Safety First For Documents

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My brother and I were talking about some estate work that we each had done recently and the subject came up of safe-keeping documents.  We’ve steadily upgraded our approach over the years from using a file cabinet, to putting our wills in the freezer drawer, to buying a fire-box, to investing in a full-on home safe.

We now keep our important papers in a large Sentry safe that I bought at Home Depot about 7-8 years ago.  It is really heavy – about 85 pounds – and has 1.25 cubic feet of capacity, which is pretty roomy for us.  We keep it downstairs where it is easy to access and could be bolted securely in place.

The primary purpose of our home safe is to protect key documents against fire.  It has a 1 hour fire-rating at 1700 degrees (F).  That’s supposed to be good enough to protect CDs, DVDs, and USBs flash drives which we have in there, but I have my doubts.  We don’t have a flood risk, but many home safes come with waterproof ratings as well.

I don’t put a lot of stock in our home safe stopping theft, that’s for sure.  The typical home safe has a ’TL’ rating of 15, which means a thief with common tools could penetrate it in just 15 minutes.  Jane Bryant Quinn quipped in her ‘Making The Most of Your Money’ book that home safes “won’t stop a jewel thief for a minute.  You might as well write the combination on the top to save the burglar the trouble of whacking off the lock.”

Regardless, there is nothing particularly valuable in our home safe.  No gem-laden jewelry, rare coins, or Honus Wagner baseball cards.  Those types of things are better to put in super-secure bank safety deposit boxes than keep at home, anyway.  Our is filled with mainly documents that would be a lot of work to get replaced.

There is no shortage of money that can be spent on a home safe.  At $150, ours is pretty basic.  The handle is a bit flimsy and I always worry it is going to break off with too much pressure.  You can get safes with digital keypads, fingerprint scanners, and large safes for keeping rifles and shotguns with your key documents.

Any unique approaches you have on keeping documents safe?

Image Credit: Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Safety First For Documents

    1. Good approach since I’m sure you have hundreds of gold bars and documents with client dirt on them to protect from all of those years on Madison Avenue. 😉

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  1. I use the fingers crossed method. Very cheap. Don’t have to remember password, combinations, or where I hid the key. I’m pretty sure this method also wards off thieves.

    Just kidding🤣. We have a small safe, which honestly, could easily be broken into or a thief could pick it up and just walk off with it. So, I do actually use crossed fingers method and hope this never happens!

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    1. I think a small fireproof safe is great – even if it can be opened. I figure the easier for them to get in, the more likely they won’t take something that snot valuable but hard to replace (documents).

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  2. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t ever keep your will or estate documents in a safe deposit box. It will get tied up into the probate process upon death and can be difficult for your heirs to get the estate documents when they are most needed. I imagine this is different depending on where you live.

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  3. Our investment advisory firm provides for enrollment in Everplans. This is a secure online site that allows you to enter all of your information for a variety of life stuff and allows for the executor of your estate access to all account information, wills, passwords and other stuff to assist in closing up your life. This also helps spouse. Wills and other documents can be loaded there.
    I saw Reggie Jackson speak in 1990 about the Oakland Hills fire that destroyed his house. He had a top fire rated safe, yet his World Series rinks were but a glob of metal.

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  4. Safe deposit box at our local bank. BTW, its completely safe from probate, if you have your key contact person(s) on the access list with pre-signatory approval(s). They can always access. In our case, this is our two grown daughters. They just have to find the super secret key hiding place! Hee-Hee-Hee (…evil laughter fading into the background!)

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