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?
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