How can we get access to a deceased’s safety deposit box?

UPDATED: Mar 1, 2013

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How can we get access to a deceased’s safety deposit box?

My stepmother (aged 72) died recently. She was living with my 77 year old father although they were legally separated. We have not been able to find a Will (my dad has early dementia and has no idea where anything is, etc). We did find a statement for a safety deposit box but it is only in the deceased name. How can we get access to it since we are stepchildren and not her legal children. Can my dad get access even though they are legally separated? We are asssuming/hoping the will is in the safety deposit box. They do have a 27 year old son together, however he is a heroin addict with a criminal record. Would he be able to access it as her next of kin?

Asked on March 1, 2013 under Estate Planning, Washington


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Accessing a safety deposit box after death is a complicated procedure.  This is why I advise my clients not to put their legal documents in a safety deposit box.

I am sure your state has a procedure for accessing the box and distributing the contents.  It will requre approval from the probate court and you will need a lawyer to assist with this and with distributing the estate.  I do not think your father could access the box without court involvement, but I do not practice in your state.

I doubt that your stepbrother would have legal access to the safety deposit box without court approval, which will likely be denied.  Your father is going to need a lawyer to sort out the estate with or without the safety deposit box.

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