It is not uncanny to see individuals using safe deposit boxes to store jewelry, marketable securities, luxury goods, and important documents (i.e., wills, property deeds, birth certificates, etc.), among other valuable assets.
However, how should the beneficiaries of the owner of a safe deposit box proceed upon his/her death in Florida? Keep reading to discover which persons may have access to a safe deposit box upon its owner’s passing in Florida.
Determining Who is Allowed to Access a Safe Deposit Box After Death in Florida
Florida Statutes §655.935 provide the instructions governing search procedures on the death of lessee for banks and other entities. Typically, no court order is necessary to open a safe box deposit upon its owner’s death in Florida.
Yet, upon providing satisfactory proof of death, only certain individuals may have access to safe box deposits, such as the owner’s spouse, parent(s), adult children, or the person named as the personal representative in the last will.
However, most institutions responsible for safe deposit boxes (e.g., banking entities) have policies that require a court order to avoid liability and secure the content in a safe deposit box against fraud or misrepresentations of a family member.
Still, when a close relative or a personal representative manages to require access without a court order, the entity may require further documentation, such as birth records, evidence of marriage, etc.
Besides, close relatives attempting to access a safe box deposit upon death may face even more hardship if the safe deposit box is solely owned by the decedent. Ultimately, the best approach is to seek a court order with the guidance of a legal advisor.
Safe Deposit Box vs. Probate Proceedings – Is it Possible to Access a Safe Deposit Box During Formal Administration?
The most common type of probate in Florida is formal administration, in which a court will diligently conduct the entire process of probating a deceased person’s assets. When someone files a petition for formal administration, a probate court will appoint a personal representative.
Automatically, the personal representative will have the power to access the decedent’s safe deposit box after the probate issues Letters of Administration.
Florida Statutes §655.936 provides that an entity responsible for the decedent’s safe box deposit may grant access to the safe box “after 3 months from the issuance to such personal representative of his or her letters of authority. “
Upon the issuance of Letter of Administration, the entity may proceed to deliver “to such personal representative all properties deposited with it for safekeeping and the contents of any safe-deposit box in the name of the decedent (…).”
Is It Possible to Petition to Open Safe Deposit Box in Florida? – Exploring Available Options
Depending on the case, preparing a petition to open a safe deposit box may be a better option than filing for formal administration in probate court. Ideally, it must be done under the guidance of an expert legal advisor.
Commonly known as a “Petition to Search Safe-Deposit Box,” a decedent’s close relative may utilize it to gain access to a safe deposit box, searching the contents for documents, assets, etc. To obtain approval through petition to open a safe deposit box in Florida, a petitioner must demonstrate that the decedent may have left in the safe deposit box:
- A last will or codicil
- Writing identifying devise(s) of tangible property
- Writing describing burial instructions
- A deed to burial plot
- Insurance policies
Do You Want to Access a Safe Deposit Box After Death in Florida? – Work with an Expert Attorney
Gaining access to a safe deposit box upon the owner’s passing may be a stressful and time-consuming task unless you have the help of an expert attorney in Florida.