Did You Know?: You Can Access a Safe Deposit Box After a Death Before Probate

After a death, many people are left looking for a Will or a Trust. If people are unable to find any estate planning documents in the home, the last place to look often ends up being a Safe Deposit Box. The original Will is one of the few legal documents where an original is required.

There are some special rules under the California Probate Code which gives you access to a Safe Deposit Box to look for a Will or a Trust, if you meet certain qualifications.

Under Probate Code section 331, a person with a key may, even before starting probate, obtain access to a safety deposit box to look for a Will or a Trust. Additionally, the person may be allowed to access information regarding the disposition of the decedent’s remains.

In order to access a Safe Deposit Box of a deceased person, you must have:
1. The key to the Safe Deposit Box,
2. A death certificateÍž and
3. Proof of identity.

If you do not have the key to the Safe Deposit Box, but you know one exists, you will need to initiate Probate to obtain access to the Safe Deposit Box.

If are denied access to a Safe Deposit Box, you should contact an estate planning attorney to assist you with obtaining access to the Safe Deposit Box.

If you have located a Will or a Trust in a Safe Deposit Box, you are required to follow certain procedures. At that point, you should contact an attorney experienced in Probate and Trust Administration.