Who Can Open a Deceased Person’s Safe Deposit Box in Florida?
When someone passes away, one of the first tasks their family or legal representative will do is try and locate a will. Many Florida residents choose to keep their original will and other key documents, such as their life insurance policies, in a safe deposit box. But how does the decedent’s estate or next of kin access such a box?
Section 733.6065 of the Florida Statutes provides that the initial opening of any safe deposit box leased (or co-leased) by the decedent must be done in the presence of at least two of the following individuals:
- an employee of the institution that leased the safe deposit box;
- the personal representative of the decedent’s probate estate; or
- the attorney of record for the personal representative.
Each person who is present for this initial opening must then verify the contents of the safe deposit box by signing a written inventory (under penalty of perjury). The personal representative then has 10 days to file this inventory, as well as any record of persons who accessed the box within the 6 months before the decedent’s death. The personal representative is also entitled to remove the contents of the safe deposit box.
Searching for the Decedent’s Will, Burial Plot Information, and Life Insurance Policy
Separately, Section 655.935 of the Florida Statutes establishes a procedure for searching a decedent’s safe deposit box after their death. This section is used when the likely personal representative or a family member believes the box contains the decedent’s will, burial plot deed, or life insurance policy, all items that need to be recovered as soon as possible.
A spouse, parent, adult descendant (child, grandchild, et al.) may petition the court for an order seeking to open and examine the contents of the decedent’s safe deposit box. (This is not considered the same as the “initial opening” under Section 733.6065 described above.) If the court grants the order, the institution leasing the box must make it available for inspection by the petitioner. The institution must then, at the petitioner’s request, remove and deliver certain documents if they are contained in the box, as follows:
- Any writing that purports to be the decedent’s will must be delivered to the probate court for the county where the institution is located.
- Any writing that appears to be a deed to the decedent’s burial plot must be delivered to the person who requested the search.
- Any document that appears to be the decedent’s life insurance policy which must be delivered to the named beneficiary.
Contact a Florida Estate and Trust Litigation Lawyer Today
It is important to properly marshal and inventory any property that belongs to a probate estate, including the contents of a safe deposit box. An experienced Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorney can advise you on any legal matter related to this process. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule an initial consultation.