What not to put in your safety deposit box

Posted by on May 3, 2011 in estate planning

I heard a story recently where the only copy of a will was placed in a safety deposit box. The renter of the safety deposit box died and the key could not be found. Since the only original of the will was in the safety deposit box, no one could definitively prove they were the executor and request access. Perhaps the bank was being bureaucratic but, at the same time, would you feel comfortable if anyone claiming to be your representative ask for access to your safety deposit box?

The morale of the story is that sometimes there is such a thing as too safe. The issue with renting a safety deposit box is that you are at the whim of the bank’s hours. While many banks now open past traditional banking hours, banks are not 24-7 services. For example, if the original power of attorney for health care is locked in a safety deposit box, how would anyone get access to it if one is rendered incapable in the middle of the night?

As for wills, some jurisdictions do allow executors to remove original wills from a safety deposit box. Other jurisdictions will adhere to the rule that the only people allowed access to the safety deposit box are the renters and executors who are duly appointed. But you can’t be duly appointed without the original will so you end up in a big circle.

As implied above, giving a copy of a key to your spouse or proposed executor does not solve the problem. Instead, the spouse or proposed executor has to sign the rental agreement to allow for unfettered access to the safety deposit box.

Given all these issues, it may be best to keep the original of the will  and power of attorney at the lawyer’s office or in a fire-proof safe at home with your family and executor knowing exactly where the original is kept.

2 Comments on What not to put in your safety deposit box

By This and That: Buffett, Ariely and more… | Canadian Capitalist on May 13, 2011 at 12:22 am

[...] Thicken My Wallet explains why it is not a great idea to keep a will in a safe deposit box. [...]

By This and That: Buffett, Ariely and more… « MoneySense on May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

[...] Thicken My Wallet explains why it is not a great idea to keep a will in a safe deposit box. [...]

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