Safe deposit boxes (sometimes known as safety deposit boxes or lockboxes) aren’t as commonly used as they once were because so many of our important documents are now accessible online and home safes are more common. However, if you have jewelry, coins or documents stored in a safe deposit box at a local bank, don’t forget about it when you create your estate plan.
If you decide to keep the box and leave the contents there, you need to address it during your estate planning. If you’re leaving items in the box to loved ones, your executor needs to know where to find them and be able to access the box.
Accessing the box after you’re gone
Many people think that all they have to do is tell someone where the key is, and they can get into the box. That’s not the case. They’ll need to provide a copy of your death certificate and documentation (like your will) showing they have the legal right to access the box. This is why you shouldn’t store your will and other estate plan documents there.
They will also need the key. A customer key and bank employee key are needed to open a box. If you have two customer keys, it’s wise to let your executor know where both are so they don’t have to pay a lost key fee.
Be sure you know what’s in it
It’s best to pay a visit to your safe deposit box as you do your estate planning. You may not correctly remember what’s in there. You also may want to have some items appraised to determine their value.
If you decide to close your safe deposit box and invest in a good fireproof home safe, it will mean less trouble for your executor. However, you’ll need to make the combination accessible to them. It’s also wise not to leave things in there they’ll need right away unless you’ve already given them the combination.
With experienced legal guidance, you can make sure that you appropriately address your safe deposit box (or any other locked locations for safekeeping) in your estate plan so that the valuables you keep there will find their way to the people you intend to have them.