Safety Deposit Boxes and Your Estate Plan
In today’s age, much of what we own is on the cloud, or online, or in some kind of digital form. Because of that, it can be easy to forget that some people still have and use safety deposit boxes. In many cases, when estate plans are made, the safety deposit boxes get left out of planning-forgotten by the person who made the state plan, and completely unknown to the beneficiaries.
Don’t Forget that Box
Just like bank accounts, banks are not going to give beneficiaries access to the contents of a safety deposit box, just because the box’s owner has passed away. Banks want a court order, which has to come from a probate court.
Because banks are so stubborn and because many people don’t even know their loved one even had a safety deposit box, the contents of these boxes often are transferred to the state, as unclaimed property.
If you have a safety deposit box, you want to do the obvious: make sure that your relatives and beneficiaries—and the attorney helping you with your estate plan—actually know that the box even exists in the first place. That can be done by simply leaving the contents of the box to whomever you choose.
But inclusion in an estate planning document is just the first step. Actually getting access to the box is just as important.
The physical key also can make a huge difference. With a key, whomever you leave the box to, can immediately access it. Without the key, the probate court will need to determine who gets the box, and order that the bank provide access to the box, which can delay the passing of the box to your beneficiaries.
You can simply duplicate the key and leave it with your estate planning attorney, or to someone trusted, to avoid this problem.
Adding a Joint Owner
If you want to shortcut the process, you can just add a joint owner to the box now, while you are still around. That person has all rights to access the box immediately, bypassing probate and other legal issues—although that means that other person also immediately has access to the contents of the box just as you do, so if you do this, make sure the co-owner is someone that you trust.
Having a co-owner doesn’t solve all your problems, because the co-owner could pass away before you do. So, even with a joint owner, you still want to include the box in your estate planning documents.
Using a Trust
Another way you can handle a safety deposit box is to transfer the contents of the box to a trust now, while you are still around. Like anything else left in a trust, the contents of the box will pass outside of probate, and you will have already taken care of issues like keys and access, and won’t have to rely on the probate court to do that.
We can help you with that safety deposit box–and any other assets–in your estate plan. Call the West Palm Beach estate planning lawyers at The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today, for help.