If you ask anyone under the age of 45 about safe deposit boxes, they will probably have no idea what you’re talking about. What used to be the standard in securing important documents and small valuable possessions is now kind of passé. However, it would not be unusual for an elderly family member to still have a safe deposit box at their bank and to have documents you need as a Power of Attorney or Executor.
How to Access a Safe Deposit Box
Although it is not recommended that you keep papers that need to be readily accessible in a safe deposit box, you might find that an elderly loved one has stored legal documents such as a Last Will and Testament and Powers of Attorney in their box. As an Executor of an estate or a Power of Attorney for an individual, you would have legal access to the safe deposit box, but if the documents naming you to these roles are kept in the box, you have a classic Catch-22. Fortunately, most banks will allow next of kin—such as a spouse, adult child, or parent—to open the box under their supervision after a death.
In Texas, if a bank refuses to grant you access to a safe deposit box, you can file an application with the probate court, which should intervene to allow someone supervised access to the box.
Why We Don’t Recommend Safe Deposit Boxes
The idea of locking important documents away in a bank might be appealing, but it can cause more problems than it solves. When someone becomes incapacitated, you need immediate access to their Powers of Attorney and medical directives. When they die, Probate will be tied up until you can produce a Will. If these papers are in a safe deposit box, it will take time to access them. Instead, we recommend having a fireproof safe in the home for original documents and making sure your immediate family members, Executor, Powers of Attorney, and lawyer have copies.
Contact Us to Update These Documents
Of course, these documents will be worthless if you haven’t updated them in years. There is no better time than the present to empty out your safe deposit box, invest in a good home safe, and have an attorney review your estate plan. You will not only ensure that your loved ones inherit what you want them to get, but you will also save them a lot of trouble when you pass. Reach out to one of our five offices in Texas and Arkansas to get started today.