Estate-planning clients often have safe-deposit boxes, as do decedents. On the occasions when I have been involved in an estate where there is a safe-deposit box, the box has always turned out to be empty or containing items of little or no value. One recent decedent had had two safe-deposit boxes with lost keys. It took weeks to arrange to have the boxes opened, only to find them as empty as a womanizer’s vow of fidelity.
I advise my clients that safe-deposit boxes are for illicit arms or drug dealers, or aggressive tax evaders. Honest people do not need them. Deeds and estate-planning documents are better kept in a file cabinet at home. They can be easily replaced. Stock certificates should be surrendered and the stock held in an account with a stock broker. About the only real reason to have a safe-deposit box is to store a large stash of gold or platinum. Silver is not precious enough to require that level of security. A person with enough precious metals to need a safe-deposit box is either a jewelry maker or a survivalist on the ragged edge of sanity. Assuming that civilization has deteriorated to the degree that the survivalist needs that gold, does he really think that the banks would still be operating?
I have always suspected that few safe-deposit renters put anything worthwhile in them. Now there is proof.
Roland Hedley reported on foxnews.com, on April 1, 2017, in “NSA Snoops in Bank Safe Deposit Boxes” on a leaked study of actively-rented safe deposit boxes by the NSA. According to the article, the NSA regularly sweeps bank vaults using a high-tech electromagnetic device similar to ground-penetrating radar to detect explosives, banned substances like weaponized bacteria and viruses, and stolen classified documents in safe-deposit boxes.
Having conducted these sweeps, the NSA compiled and analyzed the data it collected. The studies revealed that 63% of boxes rented by private individuals are totally empty; 26% contain only miscellaneous replaceable documents like deeds, birth certificates and original Social Security cards; 8% additionally contain silver coins from before 1965 or indian-head pennies; 2% also contain stock certificates; and less than 1% contain items that are actually valuable. It appears that money spent renting most safe deposit boxes is as wasteful as putting premium gas in a car that only needs regular – or so the NSA would have us believe.
John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2017 John B. Payne, Attorney
PS — Mr. Hedley’s article has been subsequently removed from foxnews.com, presumably by the NSA.