Securing a Safe Deposit Box After A Relative Passes

Financial institutions in Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach and Broward County all follow certain rules pertaining to a decedent’s (or a person who has passed away) safe-deposit box. The first important issue to be aware of is that if two or more people leased the safety deposit box the co-lessee may still have access to the contents of the safe-deposit box even if the bank knows the other co-lessee has passed. If this is the case, it may be difficult to know what exactly was in the safe-deposit box at the time a person passed.

One way to secure the assets of the safe deposit box is to make an inventory as soon as possible. An inventory will list and describe all of the assets in the safe deposit box. For the inventory to comply with Florida Statutes §655.937, the inventory must be made in the presence of and signed by at least two people including an employee of the institution where the box is located and the personal representative or the personal representative’s attorney.

There are several people who may gain access to a safe-deposit box after the person who leased it has passed away. If the institution that leases the box has a satisfactory proof of death, then that institution must permit the spouse, parent, adult descendant, or named personal representative in a will to open and examine the safe deposit box. For everyone’s protection, this inspection must be done in front of an officer of the institution. Some Florida institutions may have stricter requirements than others for the identification of people authorized to open a safe-deposit box. It is important to read the safe-deposit box’s lease agreement. If the court has named an authorized person, that person is able to examine the contents of the safe deposit box.

The spouse, parent, adult descendant, named personal representative or authorized person may also request the institution to deliver to the court a will contained in the safe deposit box, a deed to a burial plot or burial instructions, or any life insurance documents. The institution also has to make a complete copy of the removed and delivered document.

Once the court has opened the probate estate, the institution will allow the personal representative to remove any of the contents of a safe-deposit box if they present a certified copy of the letters of administration. If you or someone you know lives in the West Palm, Fort. Lauderdale, or Miami-Dade area and needs assistance in opening a probate estate, gaining access to a safe-deposit box, or other probate litigation needs the experienced attorneys at Chepenik Trushin can help. Please feel free to contact us for an initial consultation.