Do you have a safe deposit box? You may have forgotten all about it – especially if it’s free because of your relationship with your bank. If you’re preparing to do your estate planning, you need to make sure that those who will be managing your estate know about it and can access it. If there are valuables in there, you’ll also want to designate who will be inheriting them – or maybe choose to give them to family members while you’re still around.
Safe deposit boxes aren’t as common as they used to be, with so many of our important documents now stored online. People are more likely to store valuables in home safes (which also shouldn’t be forgotten in estate planning).
If you’re keeping valuable assets in there like jewelry, collectibles or even old photos and mementos, list those somewhere in or adjacent to your estate plan. If you’re leaving them to heirs, include them in your will. Contrary to popular belief, Post-it notes with family members’ names attached to these items carry no legal weight.
Accessing the box after your death
If you choose to keep your box, it’s crucial that your executor be able to access it after you’re gone. However, you should never keep the only copies of your estate planning documents there. Your executor will need to access those immediately.
If you don’t have a spouse or other family member who’s a co-owner of the box with you, your executor will likely need to present a copy of your death certificate and documentation showing their authority to access it before they can get in. They’ll also need one of the keys.
Every financial institution handles its safe deposit boxes somewhat differently, so it’s a good idea to check with yours and find out what will be needed to access your box after you pass away. This way, you can make things as uncomplicated as possible for your loved ones.