Safe deposit boxes are a great way to store important documents such as deeds to real estate, vehicle titles, stock certificates, life insurance policies and other important items. While these boxes are an excellent way to ensure your important items remain secure, they also pose a potential problem when it comes time to prorate your estate. If you have a safe deposit box you will want to plan ahead so your estate won’t have trouble when it’s time to access it.
Like other forms of property, a safe deposit box can be owned by more than one person. Co-tenants to a safe deposit box can be one way to ensure the contents of the box are properly secured after you die. However, choosing a spouse as a co-tenant is not always a good idea as both of you may die at the same time. One possible option is to appoint your estate executor as a co-tenant. This way the executor will be able to easily access the box when needed.
Another practical problem with safety deposit boxes is who has a key. Even if, for example, your executor is a co-tenant with you in the box, you may choose to keep the only key so that you are the only one who can easily access it. After you die your executor will need to access the box but if he doesn’t have a key it will be very difficult to do so. If the key cannot be found, it will probably cost you or your estate $100 or more to have the bank open the box without the key.