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RayAnswers, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 42287
Experience:  Texas lawyer for 30 years in Estate law
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How can I close my deceased spouse safe deposit box? How do

Customer Question

How can I close my deceased spouse safe deposit box? How do I submit my conservator papers and related docs to get a court order to close his box and savings account value less than 3000.00.? I was not a signer on his acct /box.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  RayAnswers replied 1 year ago.

Hi and welcome to JA. Ray here to help you today.

Here is how you can do a sneak and peak for a will.This means you can see inside for a will.Any valuables will only be released after probate is opened to the personal representative once the letters are presented.

First, the person seeking access must have a key to the box. Prob C § 331(a). It is not enough if theperson is a relative or friend of the decedent, he or she needs a key to gainaccess. Next, this person must showing the bank both of the following (Prob C § 331(b):

(1) Proof of the decedent’s death. Proof shall be provided by acertified copy of the decedent’s death certificate or by a written statement ofdeath from the coroner, treating physician, or hospital or institution wherethe decedent died.

(2) Reasonable proof of the identity of the person seekingaccess. Reasonable proof of identity is provided for the purpose of thisparagraph if the requirements of Section 13104 are satisfied.

In short, the person needs to show a death certificate and adriver's license to the bank.

Upon satisfaction of Prob C § 331(b), the bank is required to do the following:

(1) Keep a record of the identity of the person.

(2) Permit the person to open the safe deposit box under thesupervision of an officer or employee of the financial institution, and to makean inventory of its contents.

(3) Make a photocopy of all wills and trust instruments removedfrom the safe deposit box, and keep the photocopy in the safe deposit box untilthe contents of the box are removed by the personal representative of theestate or other legally authorized person. The financial institution may chargethe person given access a reasonable fee for photocopying.

(4) Permit the person given access to remove instructions forthe disposition of the decedent’s remains, and, after a photocopy is made, toremove the wills and trust instruments.

In short, the person can remove the decedent's will and trustfrom the safe deposit box but must make a copy of each.

Then, the person is to deliver all wills found in the safedeposit box to the clerk of the superior court and mail or deliver a copy tothe person named in the will as executor or beneficiary as provided in Section8200. Prob C § 331(e).

However, this person is not given carte blanche in regards ***** ***** The last part of Prob C § 331 states:

(f) Except as provided in subdivision (d), the person givenaccess shall not remove any of the contents of the decedent’s safe deposit box.

So again you can look for a will here, see i the valuable warrant the time and expense of opening probate--know that creditors can then file claims against the assets.

This is the best you can do if you are wanting to see what is there and access it, you can get the will but thats it without opening probate.Even if there is a trust here its a problem since you were not on the box by name.

Expert:  RayAnswers replied 1 year ago.

I am sorry for your loss of spouse here.Remember you are also due death benefits , one time small payment from social security and survivor benefits as well.

Expert:  RayAnswers replied 1 year ago.

If you get a look at the box here and decide probate isn't worth it you can present a small estate affidavit to get the funds without probate--you just cannot get the contents other than a will from the box.

Here are forms to claim the funds.You complete it and attache death certificate and present to the bank.I would do the box first then if no other assets you can claim the funds here with the affidavit.Thanks again.

Appreciate the chance to help you today.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hello, I live in California and the box is located in California. You did not answer my question. How do I present the documents (DE-305/death cert/conservator papers) I had previously notarized to The Superior Court of San Francisco County? Is this something I have do in person? Do I need to hire my estate attorney (trust previously setup) to do this or can this be submitted by mail to the court to get permission to close the box. I am his spouse and the conservator for his estate. Thanks!
Expert:  RayAnswers replied 1 year ago.

You can try here without the courts.The affidavit names you as the legal heir and you are trying to avoid probate here and any court orders.If this doesn't work then you have to motion the court and seek a court order and you will need a court orders.

Here are forms to claim the funds.You complete it and attache death certificate and present to the bank.I would do the box first then if no other assets you can claim the funds here with the affidavit.Thanks again.

The affidavit here is a means to try and collect anything in the box without a lawyer and the courts.The bank doesn't always accept thees but its the cheapest, easiest way to start here.