Should I Open My Loved One’s Safe Deposit Box?

If the Decedent had a safe deposit box at a local bank, it is important that you do not remove any contents of the safe deposit box.  After the death of an owner, a safe deposit box must be properly inventoried by the Executor or Personal Representative according to specific procedures that generally include the presence of the Clerk of Court, a Deputy Clerk, or other Qualified Person as defined by law.

Many are under the impression that if they just add their adult children to their safety deposit box that this eliminates the need for an inventory of probate after their death, but this is not true. Just because you may have a key to the safe deposit box does not authorize you to access the contents of the safe deposit box.

If you are a lessee, co-tenant, or deputy of the decedent’s safe deposit box, then you may have legal authority to access the safe deposit box without the presence of the clerk of court. However, the safe deposit box still must be properly inventoried and accounted for by the Executor or Personal Representative as part of the probate and estate administration process.

If you believe your loved one may have had a safe deposit box but do not know where it is located, try contacting all financial institutions where your loved held accounts, ask family members, and ask your loved one’s attorney.

 

Losing a loved one is hard. The days and weeks after a loss are often fraught with grief, questions, and unfortunately, family complications. It’s a terrible time to try to think through a legal process clearly. It’s often a challenge just to know where to start. Maybe you’re not even sure what questions to ask and whom to ask. How do you know you’re getting good advice and doing it right? You could probably use some help. Our Understanding Estate Administration guide can help. This guide will give you an overview of the probate and estate administration process in plain English. Request your free copy here.

Jennifer Mercer
Paralegal, Probate and Estate Administration Team Lead