Secrets behind Safety Deposit Boxes

Any day now someone will realize that they could make the story of unclaimed safety deposit boxes a reality TV show . I`m sure it will happen eventually. An article last year from New England Cable News provided some interesting details on how safety deposit boxes work in the US, but unfortunately, the article has since disappeared.  And very unfortunately, the article failed to shine any light on what happens to safety deposit boxes in Canada but we are still looking into that particular mystery.

In the US, each State takes responsibility for the boxes after 5 years of no activity (most importantly, missed payments) because safety deposit boxes are considered unclaimed property and well, the US has had unclaimed property legislation for about 40+ years.

After reading the story of a typical day of opening abandoned safety deposit boxes in a typical state like Wisconsin I have a new appreciation of why they REALLY try to return the boxes to the rightful owners.

Hundreds of boxes arrive at this particular office in Wisconsin but each State may vary in the additional amount of time they will hold abandoned items after receiving the boxes from the banks who have already held them for 5 years.. Wisconsin holds boxes for 2 years while Iowa will hold boxes for 10 more years.

“We’ve really tried to push our outreach efforts to let people know about unclaimed funds and getting money back to people,” said Scott Feldt, the deputy state treasurer. “That’s our major effort, that’s why we are here.”

They do so at by way of public events, radio, TV and newspaper interviews. They also publish lists of people owed unclaimed property in various newspapers and in their searchable online database.

More commonly, they hold coins and jewelry, old stamps and personal documents, like wills and marriage certificates. But often times unusual items of no monetary value re found in the boxes and they have no choice but to destroy. This story details some of those finds:

  •  One box contained a Band-Aid box and two toenails, wrapped in tissue.
  •  One box contained an empty envelope.(only)
  •  One box contained nothing but spoons.
  •  One box contained a Rolex box, but alas, no Rolex.
  •  One box contained dental gold, teeth still attached

 Some of the items are sold in monthly eBay auctions. The office holds the proceeds for the owner in the event someone later claims them.

Perhaps not these particular items but some items that are found to have value are sold in monthly eBay auctions and then the proceeds are held for the owner in the event someone later claims them.

And while it may depend on the State most will hold certain special items ‘in perpetuity’ like photographs and war medals which they know would mean the most…if they eventually find the rightful owners.

All in all, it seems like a fairly civilized and respectful process and transparent! I look forward to unraveling the story of unclaimed Canadian Safety deposit boxes.

The fate of abandoned safety deposit boxes is seen a little different according to the site Punny Money as noted below

US_Safety Deposit Box Info