Find Out How We Can Help

Don’t forget your safe deposit box during estate planning

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Estate Planning

If you’re preparing to put your estate plan in place, you’ll need to account for all of your assets – even those you may not have touched for years. Consider safe deposit boxes, for example.

You may have a safe deposit box with jewelry or other valuables, including sentimental items. Even if you haven’t opened it in many years, it’s important to address it moving forward. If you decide to keep the box and the items in it, it’s critical to include them in your estate plan and designate where you want those assets to go.

Make sure the box can be accessed after you’re gone

If you don’t have a spouse or other family member who is a co-owner of the safe deposit box, your estate executor needs to know about it and how to access it when the time comes. Note that even if you tell them where to locate a key to the box (and you should), your executor – assuming they aren’t listed on your safe deposit box account – will need to present a copy of your death certificate and documentation from your estate plan showing that they’re the executor in order to gain entry to the box.

Do not place your only copy of your estate plan or any other documentation that will be needed immediately after you pass away in your safe deposit box. Your executor will need access to your plan right away, so they should have a copy. Your estate planning legal professional should also have a copy on file.

Find out what your financial institution’s procedures are

Every financial institution has different rules and procedures related to safe deposit boxes and accessing them after the owner has passed away. It is, therefore, a good idea to talk with someone at your financial institution about theirs when you determine what to keep in your box and what to remove over time.

It’s important to know that someone can’t just show up with a key and get into the box without proper documentation. Further, if they don’t have a key, the box will likely need to be opened by a locksmith. Boxes typically need a customer key and employee key to be safely opened.

While you may give little or no thought to your safe deposit box most of the time, it can cause a lot of problems for your executor and other surviving loved ones if you don’t consider it when you’re estate planning. Having experienced legal guidance can help you address this and other assets and property you may not have thought much about as you develop your estate plan.