August 29, 2012

Safe Deposit Box

Many people utilize a safe deposit box to store valuable items. A person might keep a prized piece of jewelry, an antique watch or their passport in it. What is also commonly found in a safe deposit box is an original copy of a person's will and trust. A will and trust are one of the few legal documents where an original is generally required. I always tell clients to store their will and trust in a safe deposit box, assuming they have one, because it is a secure location.

Frequently, a person will own a safe deposit box in his or her name alone.  Since the asset is held in their name alone, there is the initial concern that access will be prohibited once they pass away. However, the probate code has been amended to allow access to the safe deposit box for specified reasons for certain people. The following explains how a person can gain access to the safe deposit box and what they may remove.

First, the person seeking access must have a key to the box. Prob C § 331(a). It is not enough if the person is a relative or friend of the decedent, he or she needs a key to gain access. Next, this person must showing the bank both of the following (Prob C § 331(b):