Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 January 2020

Safe-deposit box​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​es are not just for the super wealthy

Nima Abu Wardeh explains what you should and shouldn't store in a secure bank locker

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

Billionaires only need apply. A bank vault in a grade-II listed 120-year-old former mansion next to the Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane is open for business this month, and it's taking pride in promoting itself as the world’s most expensive.

It goes to show, that, despite our digital universe, what you can touch and hold still counts, and keeping keepsakes safe is key.

You might think these safe-deposit boxes contain the possessions of the ultra-rich or those with something to hide — think compromising photographs and priceless jewellery — but think again. Aside from jewellery and possessions of sentimental value, there are a few things that must exist — physically — if you are to function, or for your wishes to be carried out.

Renting the boxes ranges from as little as $20 (Dh73.46) a month for a tiny one in a place that isn’t luxurious, to over $3 million (Dh11,01m) for a room at IBV.

Nima Abu Wardeh

Here’s a mini-guide to the items you’d be wise to keep in a safe-deposit box, or somewhere secure away from the risk of floods or fires.

Firstly, make sure you stash an original copy of your will. This must not be the original document itself because after your death the safe-deposit box will be sealed until an executor can prove he or she has the legal right to access it. So, why keep a copy? It could do away with any speculation or additional trauma around what your wishes really were and whether anyone has tampered with your paperwork.

The same applies to letters of instruction you might leave along with your estate planning — a copy of who gets what, left in your secure locker, means your wishes will probably happen.

Other documents you could stash include:

• A copy of your lasting, or durable, power of attorney

• A living will (your end of life care, for example do you want a ventilator or feeding tube to keep you alive? Do you want to be resuscitated?

• A health-care proxy or power of attorney; this is where you designate someone to make health-related decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so yourself

You could also use the box to store property deeds, car titles, and that letter that means the world to you (or a copy if you still like to hold and read the original) — along with whatever priceless jewels you own.

Things not to keep include cash. While it's not illegal to hold cash, it’s losing value sitting there and some places prohibit it.

Another one to avoid storing is a passport; imagine having an impulse to travel spontaneously and not being able to go.

A key tip here is to keep receipts or proof of ownership with you for any valuables you choose to place in a safe box.

There was a raid on a bank offering safe deposit boxes a few years ago. The police seized the contents of all the boxes and told owners if they wanted their valuables back they'd have to prove ownership. No proof meant not getting the items back.

Also, make sure your items are insured, either with the company renting you the box or via your own insurance policy.

Safe-deposit boxes at banks vary in terms of how "protected" they are but they are generally fire resistant and protected against floods.

My advice: take an inventory and visit the box periodically to verify its contents. Take heed from the story of a safe-deposit box mistakenly drilled open and emptied by a bank, which had confused it with another locker with a similar number whose owner had fallen behind on rental fees. (Human error is something we are yet to mitigate effectively against).

And don’t lose your key — getting a lock replaced can be very expensive.

Renting the boxes ranges from as little as $20 (Dh73.46) a month for a tiny one in a place that isn’t luxurious, to over $3 million (Dh11,01m) for a room at IBV.

At IBV, it’s all very retro. You get a key, which is matched with another "guard key" — a key that goes with your box that’s kept on the premises. When you want access, you’re accompanied by a "highly trained officer", a custodian replete with white gloves, and yes, there’s a facility in Dubai.

The newly appointed managing director, who used to be in charge of safe-deposit boxes at Harrods, shared a story of a woman who would go to the Harrods vault to take out a priceless diamond necklace before heading to a plush dinner party, then back the next morning to return it. These are IBV’s clients — the ultra-rich. Anyone can apply for a box, as long as they have enough money to qualify.

All this reminds me of the film King of Thieves. Based on the true story of the largest burglary in English legal history, the heist was planned and carried out by six elderly men who were experienced thieves. They burgled an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area and got away with £200m worth of goods — but not for long. They received their prison sentences in 2016. Money boxes for the ultra-rich are certainly tempting for some.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist, blogger and founder of S.H.E. Strategy. Share her journey on finding-nima.com

Updated: December 5, 2019 05:00 PM

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