Under the laws of many states, a person’s safe deposit box is sealed upon death and can be opened only after certain procedures prescribed by state law have been complied with. This can cause delay in obtaining important documents that the surviving spouse may need immediately, such as the will, cemetery deeds, military discharge papers, etc.
One way of avoiding this problem is to have two safe deposit boxes–one in the name of each spouse. The wife can keep in her vault important documents that will be needed in the event of her husband’s death and the husband can keep those documents that will be needed if his wife dies.
An extra safe deposit box costs very little. If it can help minimize the problems and grief at time of death, it can be a worthwhile expenditure.
What Not To Put in a Safe Deposit Box
Do not put wills, trust instruments, or powers of attorney in a safe deposit box. Instead, keep these in a fire-proof safe at home or at your attorney’s office.
The reason: Upon someone’s death, the safe deposit box may be sealed for weeks, resulting in delays and needless costs spent getting a court order to open the box. Even if the box is not sealed, the executor of the deceased’s estate will have no access to the box without the will that shows that he is the executor, resulting in headaches and delays.
No legal documents should be placed in a safe deposit box if they will be needed by anyone who cannot gain access to them.