We are sometimes asked about whether Florida probate is required to access the contents of a safety deposit box in Florida.
If there are no known probate assets, knowing what’s in the safety deposit box can often determine whether Florida probate is required. And if the Last Will and Testament could be in the safety deposit box, the contents of the box can affect the entire Florida probate process.
The Florida Probate Code allows access to the contents of a decedent’s safety deposit box if certain requirements are met. Specifically, two people must be present when the box is opened. The first is an employee of the institution where the box is located (usually a bank).
The second person can either be the estate’s personal representative or his or her attorney. The personal representative is entitled to take possession of the contents of the box.
Banks will usually require a death certificate before granting access to the safe deposit box.
Once the box has been opened, these two parties are then required to make and sign an inventory.
The personal representative is responsible for filing with the probate court this inventory, along with a copy of the box entry record.
Note that the Florida laws pertaining to financial institutions also allow the decedent’s spouse, parents, and adult descendants to open and examine (but not to keep) the contents of safe-deposit boxes.
Even if all procedures are complied with, a bank may require a court order in some circumstances before allowing access to the safety deposit box. Feel free to contact us about any specific questions.