10 Jul Safety Deposit Box Pitfalls

Many think putting their estate planning documents into a safety deposit box is a wise decision. But in many states, such as Ohio, if an individual is the only person named as the owner of a safety deposit box, then no one else is able to access the box after the individual’s death without the approval of the court. This means that if you were to die today and your estate planning documents were tucked neatly into your safety deposit box at the local bank, your family would not have immediate access of your will, trust, power of attorney, etc. In fact, your family would have to go through a court process to be permitted to open the box and retrieve those crucial documents.
In Franklin County, there are many steps for an individual to complete with the opening of a deceased’s safety deposit box. Most financial institutions do not allow just any “interested” person(s) to obtain a deceased’s safety deposit box. An individual must first ask the court to appoint a certain individual (most often the individual’s attorney) to act as commissioner of the safety deposit box. The commissioner is then required to open the box in front of the applicant and an employee of the financial institution, inventory the safety deposit box, and then report the contents of the deposit box, which the applicant, commissioner, and the employee of the financial institution must sign and date. The commissioner is also appointed to bring, if any, of the decedent’s wills or codicils to the Court. It is then that the will is able to be processed in the Probate Court.
To avoid these court procedures and the common pitfalls of storing estate planning documents in a safety deposit box, consider placing the box in the name of your Revocable Living Trust so the successor trustee of the trust will be able to gain access to the documents immediately after your death or incapacitation. Or, add a joint owner to the box so they may have access to your estate planning documents. Just be sure that the joint owner is someone whom you can trust with having access to the box and who you know will carry out your estate planning wishes.
To receive legal assistance in opening a safety deposit box or amend a Trust to include your safety deposit box, please contact Attorney Jacqueline Ferris MacLaren, with MacLaren Law, LLC, at (614) 855-6527 or jackie@maclarenlaw.net.
This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not to be construed as legal advice.
By Dalyn Watson