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Can I Give Someone Access to My Safety Deposit Box?

By Larry Li

March 17, 2022


Giving a loved one or relative access to your safety deposit box can help during potential emergencies in the future. 

But is it possible to give someone access to your safety deposit box?

You can give someone access to your safety deposit box. This is a common practice among couples and families. You will need to visit your bank with the person you want to give access to. The person will need to provide their ID and signature. As a result, they will have equal access to the contents of your box.

The person will have unrestricted access to your safety deposit box and be considered a joint renter. But before you run to the bank, you should consider the benefits and risks of giving someone joint access to your safety deposit box. 

This is a big decision that has potentially harsh consequences later on. 

In today’s guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why it’s beneficial to share access to your safety deposit box

  • How to give someone access to your safety deposit box

  • Potential risks of sharing access

  • Post-death safety deposit box procedures

Is It Possible To Give Someone Access to Your Safety Deposit Box?

As I mentioned before, you are allowed to give someone access to your safety deposit box. Now that you understand that it’s possible let’s discuss a few use cases on why you’d want to share access.

Post-Death Access

After the owner dies, accessing a safety deposit box is a tricky and time-consuming dilemma. Even if your family members request access, the process may require attorneys, affidavits, and court letters. 

If they’re lucky, they will only need to provide a death certificate, and your safety deposit box’s contents will be released to your wife or family.

This can all be avoided if you give someone access as a joint renter. As long as they have a key and are registered as a joint renter, they will be able to access the safety deposit box without any issues upon your death.

Valuable Documents and Items

A shared safety deposit box can be optimal for couples who want to store important documents somewhere secure. 

Let’s say you and your partner wanted to store the following items:

  • Birth certificates 

  • Passports

  • Savings bonds

  • Insurance policies

  • Family jewelry

Not only would these valuables be in a safe and secure location, either one of you could access them in the future. For instance, if you and your partner have plans to go on vacation, but you’re stuck at work all week, your partner could run to the bank and grab your passports.

However, storing important documents in your safety deposit box isn’t the best solution. Now that we live in the digital age, paper-based storage systems aren’t convenient or optimal. 

Families are juggling more documents than ever before:

  • Home insurance

  • Life insurance

  • Car insurance

  • Mortgage documents 

  • Financial planning documents

  • Medical records

  • And much more

Not only is it a hassle to access these documents from your safety deposit box whenever you need them, but they may also get lost or damaged.

This is why I recommend using our digital storage platform Trustworthy (click to start your free trial). Trustworthy is a digital storage service that helps families manage documents securely. Compared to other storage platforms, Trustworthy is more personalized, secure, and easy to use. 

With a handy iPhone app or mobile website, you can access your important information wherever you are. Furthermore, you can give full or limited access to family members, finance professionals, or associates. 

Organization is key when it comes to important documents, and Trustworthy is a comprehensive digital storage solution. 

Steps Needed To Share Safety Deposit Box Access

To give someone access to your safety deposit box, you’ll need to bring them to the bank where your box is located. Your loved one or friend will then need to sign the bank's rental contract as a joint renter.

Their signature is the most important part of the process. If they choose to access the safety deposit box in the future, they’ll need to write their signature again to compare it with the original copy. This is how the process goes for the majority of banks.

However, your specific bank’s branch may have a different procedure, and different states have different laws. I recommend visiting your bank or giving them a call to find out the exact details about giving someone access to your safety deposit box.

Are There Risks to Sharing Access to Your Safety Deposit Box?

Although it’s possible to give someone access to your safety deposit box, you should ask yourself a few questions before doing so.

  • Is this someone I completely trust?

  • Will they need access to the items in the deposit box?

  • What if they run away with all the contents?

Your safety deposit box holds your most valuable and prized possessions. Therefore, you should have absolute faith and confidence that the person won’t take advantage of your safety deposit box.

The only risk is the joint renter's actions. It won’t be the bank's fault if the joint renter empties the safety deposit box.

Granting Access to Your Safety Deposit Box After Your Death

The most convenient way to give someone access to your safety deposit box after your death is to share access with them as a joint renter. 

If you’re unwilling to give someone shared access while you’re still alive, there are other solutions to post-death access. However, each state has its own laws on dealing with post-death safety deposit box access.

Provide a Key to the Person You Wish To Have Access

It’s essential to give the person you wish to have access a key to the safety deposit box. This eases the process with the bank exponentially. 

Although laws vary from state to state, California law requires that a person accessing a safety deposit box provides a death certificate, driver’s license (or other valid ID), and the key to the box.

If the person accessing your safety deposit box doesn’t have a key, they will need to get special permission from the probate court to gain access. This is a time-consuming process that can cause massive headaches.

It doesn’t get easier. Once the box is opened, the bank will take inventory of all the contents and make photocopies of all the documents. Only the will and trust can be removed from the safety deposit box. 

Other items such as valuables can be removed by a designated personal representative of the estate. If there isn’t one, you will need to file for a small estates affidavit.  

Transfer to a Living Trust

The best solution is to transfer your safety deposit box to your living trust before your death. This method involves the best balance between asset protection and ease of estate administration.

Your living trust can access your safety deposit box and its contents without the need for probate upon your death. The successor trustee will also be under a fiduciary duty to follow the terms of the trust in managing and distributing your assets, including those in your safety deposit box.

This means you won’t have to worry about them running off with your valuables without severe legal repercussions.

How To Gain Access to a Dead Relative’s Safe Deposit Box

If your relative has already passed and you want to gain access to their safety deposit box, I’ll explain the best plan of action.

Step 1

Go to the bank where the safety deposit box is kept. Then, explain to the manager that the box’s owner has passed and ask who is authorized to sign for access and if the box is still valid. 

Next, ask the manager if any paperwork or procedures are needed to open the safety deposit box under state statute and bank policy.

You will usually need a death certificate and some legal documents authorizing access.

Step 2

Get a certified copy of the relative’s death certificate to prove their death.

Step 3

Determine who in your family is chosen to manage legal and financial matters for the deceased. 

This person is named executor in the will, and they must authorize access to the safety deposit box through an affidavit. 

The majority of states would allow a spouse with a death certificate access to the box even if the spouse wasn’t listed as a joint renter.

Step 4

If the relative dies without a spouse, will, or trust, most banks require a probate judge to issue an order granting access to the safety deposit box.

Step 5

Bring all the requested documents to the bank to access the safety deposit box.

Closing Thoughts

The key takeaway in this guide is that it’s crucial to have a conversation about safety deposit boxes in your discussions about estate planning with your family.

It’s completely legal and possible to give someone access to your safety deposit box.

As you get older, giving someone you trust access to your safety deposit box can prevent massive inconveniences in the future. 

But remember, the co-lessors will have equal rights and access to the contents of the box, so think cautiously about whom you want to add.

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