August 12

Opening Safe Deposit Box is Not Easy

Cortes Law Firm Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney

Safe Deposit Box Opening is Not as Easy as You Think

Opening a safe deposit box is not as easy as you think. Today we're gonna talk about safe deposit boxes, opening them and why it might not be as easy as you think. It really is not sometimes.

Clients always tell me after they've signed their documents and leaving my office, they're going straight to the bank to put their shiny new estate plan into their safe deposit box.

The first thing that gives me heartburn is that means they are not going to spend the time to read the plan that we just worked on. I know it's our job to create a plan customized to you, but it is customized based on a snapshot of your life right now.

An estate plan is a living, breathing document that needs to be read and updated on a regular basis. You hear me say that over and over again.

Just as you get older and life changes, your estate plan needs to grow with you. So you need to read it.

Safe deposit box

The second problem is what this video is about. The safe deposit box. Ask any estate planning attorney that's out there and they can give you more than one story on a safe deposit box nightmare. Believe me, we see them all the time.

The New York Times even wrote an article on the dangers of safe deposit boxes. I will put a link to that article in the description section below. So please check it out after you watch this video.

The problem I've seen is family members not having access to their loved ones safe deposit box. If we know there's a safe deposit box, we cannot finalize a probate until we are certain of that safe deposit boxes' contents.

That is because the possibility exists that a more recent will or estate plan is in that safe deposit box.

We have had cases where everything in the probate was going smoothly until we found out there was a safe deposit box. And that happens sometimes as we go through the probate process.

When that happens, it is an all stop. Many times we need to wait for a court order specifically ordering an inventory of that safe deposit box.

We have some great probate courts and judges here in Oklahoma, but they have very, very busy dockets. If we file a motion to open a safe deposit box, it might not be 30 or 60 days before we can have a hearing before a judge. Which means the probate also gets delayed 30 or 60 days.

Now you might tell me there are no worries because you gave your daughter a key to the box, right? I hear this all the time.

Well, having a key really does not matter. What matters is that the person with the key is also listed as having access to that safe deposit box and I'm talking about complete unobstructed, unfettered access to that deposit box.

We have had cases where a son or daughter or some other relative had a key and the bank had them listed as actually having access, but once the bank found out that the parent had died, the bank immediately refused access until further court order.

There are no real regulations on safe deposit boxes, so the banks are free to each have their own rules. Read that article that I talked about below.

What makes matters even worse is that a branch employee is usually, they are never the decision maker, let me say that.

With safe deposit boxes, issues are usually referred to their in-house attorneys. And I'm an attorney, but trying to get a hold of the right in-house attorney can be a nightmare in itself.

I had a case several years ago where my client had the physical key.

He had the key and was on the bank's list of authorized people, but it still took us 10 months before we could get into the box and it required a judge's order. I have had other cases where it has taken six months or longer.

The entire time the heirs are calling me wanting their money and complaining about why things are taking so long. If we can't get into the box, there's nothing we can do, we get it.

But if a particular bank does not give us access, then we have to go through a very long process sometimes to get access to that safe deposit box.

So unless you are absolutely positive, someone can get into your safe deposit box, it's probably a better idea just to have a fire safe, safe at home.

This is not a sponsored video, but Amazon has some great fire safe boxes where you can keep your estate plan in at your house. I'll put a link below.

Next, make certain your family members know where that fire safe box is and that they can quickly access it if they need to.

Remember when we do a revocable trust centered estate plan, a huge part of that is what happens while you are still living. If you end up in a hospital for whatever reason, then your designees need to be able to access your incapacity documents.

Now they can always get an electronic copy from us or by using their DocuBank Emergency Card. But sometimes they just need the originals and so they need to know where that safe deposit box is.

Read The New York Times article below and our other video right up here on safe deposit box and get you a fire safe box.

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