It’s easy to forget that you have a safe deposit box – especially if you rarely access it. Maybe you use it to store documents like your marriage certificate (or divorce decree), your house title and your birth certificate. You may have some valuables in there like your mother’s jewelry or your father’s coin collection.
It’s not surprising that many people forget about their safe deposit box when they’re drafting their will and other estate planning documents. However, if you don’t address it (and no one else knows about it), anything of value in there could end up going to the state.
If you know anyone who’s worked in a bank office with safe deposit boxes, they’ll tell you that there are very strict regulations regarding access. A family member can’t just take your key, go down to the bank and empty it out. Let’s look at a few things you need to know as you work on your estate plan.
Don’t put your will or other estate planning documents in the box
Your executor will need those documents as soon as possible. Unless they (or someone else) are a co-owner of the box with authority to access it on their own, they probably can’t access it without documentation showing that they have that authority and the death certificate.
Include any items of value in the box in your will
If you want that jewelry and coin collection to go to your children or other beneficiaries, list them (and their location) in your will. If possible, visit your box as you develop your estate plan to get a full inventory of what’s in there (and likely get rid of things you no longer need or want).
Keep both your keys where they can be located
Safe deposit boxes typically come with two keys that must be turned in when the box is closed. Keep one or both keys with your estate plan documents along with the name and address of the bank and the box number. (It’s a good idea to have that information in your will, too. This will save your executor and family a lot of time and effort.)
If you decide that all of this is too much trouble, you may opt to purchase a home safe and keep your valuables there. Whichever location you keep these items in, make sure that you address them properly in your will.