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The Sandy Spring Way

The Myths and Truths of Estate Planning – Safe Deposit Boxes

January 10th, 2013 | By Beau Mercer

Myth – Your decision maker can easily access your safe deposit box.

Safe deposit boxes are a very complicated part of the banking world. There are many rules and regulations as to who can access the box and when. Several of my clients pride that they have kept all of their valuable documents in a safe deposit box. It makes sense — a safe place is a secure place to protect your valuables.

Then I ask simple questions. Can your financial decision makers and Personal Representative access your box? Do they know where the box and key are located? Are they signers on the box? Responses vary, but it is important to know that banks are going to be very cautious about allowing someone other than yourself access to your safe deposit box.

If your representative walks into a branch and asks to access to the box using a Power of Attorney that the manager has never seen before, they just might not be given access.

I advise my clients to clearly and openly communicate with their decision makers – where is the box, what is kept inside, where is the key. And I also ensure that their decision makers are added as signers on the box. This will allow the decision maker to walk into the bank, authorized to access the box, and avoid any potential roadblocks.

Fun fact: Some safe box renters mistakenly believe that because their valuables are stored in a bank, those items are covered by FDIC insurance, in a manner similar to their bank accounts. This is not true. Renters need to purchase separate insurance to insure their stored items.

Phil Fish