“What do I need to do now?” That is a question you might ask yourself after the death of a loved one, and for good reason. There are often a lot of issues to consider and steps to take. The following list may help you and/or others during this difficult and stressful time. Not all of the points will apply in all cases, but many of them may.

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In order to gain access to a deceased safe deposit box, you will need to present a death certificate and an executor’s letters testamentary. These forms are required to prove legal rights to the box. Also, be prepared to provide a copy of the rental agreement and photo identification. An employee of the facility will then take the necessary steps to grant you access to the box.

Spousal Rule

If the spouse of the deceased is alive, he or she may visit the facility and get unrestricted access to the box, provided he or she is able to present a death certificate. A marriage certificate may also be required. In states that recognize common-law marriage, proof that the relationship was valid during the entire time that the state recognized common-law marriage may suffice for access.

Important Considerations

Check with the state’s unclaimed property office to ensure proper compliance with all rules and regulations. Some states allow box renters to designate specific people who may access the box and its contents in the event of their death.
States without safe deposit laws generally rely on the facilities’ rental contracts to cover the specifics of what happens to boxes and their contents when renters die. Simply having a power of attorney will not be enough to designate and earn access to a safe deposit box.

Planning Ahead

To avoid any issues with access to the safe deposit box after a loved one dies, make sure he or she has information about where the safe deposit box is located, how to access it, and who can access it in a will. Without this information, ensuring the items in the box get to where they should be may present a hassle for the family members. If there is no will, make sure another trusted individual has the appropriate information to access the box in the event of death. The easiest way to handle accessing a deceased person’s safe deposit box is to ensure the appropriate information is available to the beneficiary.

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