Where there's a will, there's a safe place for it

In uncertain days, some items are too valuable to have in the house. Keeping them secure is simple, says John Andrew
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The Independent Online

On 13 June 1667, fearing a Dutch invasion, the diarist Samuel Pepys sent his wife and father with £1,300 in gold coins to bury in the garden of his country home. Later in the day he sent his clerk with one thousand guineas.

Four months later Pepys's father could not remember the exact location of concealment. When the bags were eventually unearthed they were found to have rotted and a real treasure hunt ensued. In all the confusion, 20 pieces of gold were lost.

Thankfully, keeping money safe today is much easier – we just put it in a bank. But we all have valuables that we would not like to lose. Instead of burying them in the garden, there is a far better way of protecting them. With the increase in home break-ins, it is worth considering keeping valuables in a bank or a safe deposit. It can cost far less than you imagine. Most bank branches will accept sealed envelopes and deed boxes for safe keeping in their strongrooms.

Typically, a single envelope will cost £6 to £15 for a year or part year, while a small deed box will cost £20 to £25. Large deed boxes are around £35 to £55, always assuming the bank has enough space.

Usually there is no fee for access, though NatWest does charge £5.88 for each visit. The bank will not want to know the contents. Indeed, it will issue a receipt for a sealed envelope or locked deed box marked with the customer's name, the contents being unknown to the bank. Customers must supply their own deed boxes.

It is amazing how much jewellery, wrapped in tissue for protection, can be fitted into a padded envelope. A small deed box will hold a reasonable amount of jewellery and other keepsakes,as well as documents such as share certificates and a will.

But it is more convenient for share certificates and your will to be held loose by a bank. If you decide to sell any shares, you simply instruct your bank and ask them to send the relevant certificate to the stockbroker. This saves you visiting the branch. When you die, your executors can request your will to be released. If the will is kept in a locked deed box, your relatives could have trouble finding the document at what is already a distressing time.

The loose safe keeping of any number of share certificates and a will normally costs about £10 to £15 a year, with the exception of NatWest, which charges £5.88 annually for each item. Most banks do not make a charge for wills if they have been appointed trustee of the estate.

Banks do not insure customers' items in their strong rooms. Although the risk of a mishap is small, accidents can happen. In the last few years, NatWest's Princess Street and HSBC's Chancery Lane branches in central London were flooded. Either insure the items under your household policy or with a separate policy arranged by the bank.

Londoners also have a reasonable choice of safe deposits for storing their valuables. There are rows upon row of safes of various sizes. Traditionally, the safe deposit officials hold one and the customer the other, though at the three London branches of the Belgravia Safe Deposit customers hold both a magnetic service card and a key.

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