Accessing the Deceased’s Safe Deposit Box

Some people believe that storing a Will in a safe deposit box is a bad idea.  They believe that it will be near impossible to get possession of the Will after the box owner’s passing.  Not true.

The Estates Code provides bank’s authority–even without a court order–to permit certain persons to examine the contents of the deceased’s safe deposit box.  Those persons include:

  1. The surviving spouse;
  2. A parent of the deceased;
  3. A decendent of the deceased who is at least 18 years old; or,
  4. A person named as Executor in a copy of the Will that appears valid and is presented to the bank official.

Examination of the contents of the box must occur in the presence of the bank official.  If the original Will is found inside the box, the bank official may deliver it to the clerk of the Probate Court.  The bank official also is permitted to hand it over to the person named in the Will as Executor.  The Executor must provide the bank official with a receipt for the document.  Incidentally, if a life insurance policy is found, the bank official may hand it over to the named Beneficiary.  Likewise, the Beneficiary must provide a receipt for the document. 

The Estates Code also contains provisions for the Court to order examination of the deceased’s safe deposit box in cases where the bank opts not to permit inspection without a court order.  Talk with a qualified probate attorney to learn more.

Author Jim Cramp is the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.