Advice on Safe Deposit Boxes from a Northeast Ohio Probate Lawyer

Once you’ve gone through your estate planning in Northeast Ohio, you’ve likely become aware of just what valuables you have.  In many cases, such as jewelry, you may want to keep them in your home so you can have access to them whenever you would like.  In other cases, though, it makes sense to secure them in a safe deposit box at a bank.

The types of items one chooses to keep in a safety deposit box can vary, but here are some common ones:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Social Security card
  • Copy of your will
  • Copies of degrees and professional licenses
  • Copies of divorce or separation papers
  • Military records
  • Deeds, titles, and insurance for real estate
  • Deeds, title, and insurance for vehicles
  • Valuable assets you don’t need to access (jewelry, coins, guns, etc.)
  • Stock certificates and bonds
  • Business documents

The safe deposit box is intended to keep your important items somewhere secure, but there are some that you need to access more easily than through a trip to the bank.  When you talk with your estate planning attorney, he or she will help you understand when you should have copies of certain documents available to you at home, as well as in your safe deposit box.

Access to Your Safe Deposit Box

For obvious reasons, access to your safe deposit is strictly limited.  If you want to make it accessible to another person, you’ll have to have them accompany you to the bank so that the proper ID can be shown and they can sign a signature card. This usually means that he or she now has access to your safe deposit box at any time.

You may be able to limit the access by foregoing the trip to the bank and naming the person as an executor of your trust.  When the time comes, he or she can take the appropriate documentation to the bank and be granted access.  This may require a certified copy of your death certificate along with the individual’s own identification.

As you can imagine, there are some documents that need to be accessed immediately if you should become incapacitated or deceased.  It is typically of utmost importance for medical directives and guardianships of minor children to be produced, for example.  Because it can take a fair amount of time to obtain these things from a safe deposit box, an alternate plan needs to be in place.

Your probate attorney in Northeast Ohio will be able to offer insight into how best to make these documents accessible at the right times and by the appropriate people.  Keeping copies in your safe deposit box is still a good idea, however, to ensure that they are protected in case some sort of catastrophic event (like a house fire) were to damage other copies or originals.  You will also benefit from talking directly to the employees at your bank to fully understand their policies.

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