Who has access to your Safe Deposit Box?  We have encountered many problems with safe deposit boxes.  First and foremost, if you keep your important documents in a safe deposit box, please be mindful of who can get to those documents if they are needed.  We tell our clients that they should not put their Financial Power of Attorney or their Health Care Advance Directive in the Safe Deposit Box.  Those are documents that, when they are needed, are usually needed right away.  Having to find the key and get authority to enter the box can waste precious time when your family needs to act fast.  While it is okay to keep your Will in a safe deposit box, we have had many instances where no one was authorized to enter the box.  In that instance, a family member must petition the court for authority to enter the safe deposit box to get the Will. They will not be authorized to remove anything else from the box.  Letters of Administration are needed for that.  We have also had the situation where the family was out of state and unable physically to get to the decedent’s bank.  The bank refused to allow the family to authorize our office to enter the box.  Thus, the box could not be opened until the family could come into town thus delaying the process.  Finally, there has been more than one instance where the family had to search for a key, petition the court and drive to the bank accompanied by a deputy from the Register’s Office only to find that the safe deposit box was empty, or, in a true but sad twist of fate, contained only a pen and a fifty cent piece.  The lesson:  If you are going to have a safe deposit box that no one can get into without a court order, be sure to at least stock it with treasures.

Image Credit: Stuart Corner