Safe-deposit boxes, sometimes referred to as safety deposit boxes, are available at banks and credit unions, and allow you to safely and securely store personal property. While these boxes are often a good choice for keeping valuable property secure, they can pose potential problems during the estate settlement process. Here are two issues you’ll want to think about if you have a safe deposit box and are making an estate plan.
Safe deposit boxes allow you to store your property, but they do not allow you to use them as a means to avoid probate. For example, if you keep valuable personal property in your safe deposit box this may not eliminate the requirement of that property first passing through probate before a new owner can take possession. Properly constructed living trusts can avoid the probate problem.
Many people choose safe deposit boxes to keep valuable documents, such as your medical directives, powers of attorney, or your last will and testament or trust. Though these boxes are safe choice, if no one knows that you have the safety deposit box or that you keep these document in it, that might delay the estate settlement process and cause your estate to spend time and money trying to find them. If you choose to use the safety deposit box and keep valuable possessions in it, you will want to allow for some way to notify your estate representative of this fact so, when the time comes, he or she can easily access the box. One option is to include that person on the bank’s documents identifying who has permission to access the box. Another option for those who have living trusts is to title the box in the name of the trust.