What is the easiest way to handle a safe deposit box of a deceased?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What is the easiest way to handle a safe deposit box of a deceased?

My husband passed away over 2 1/2 years ago. He was a resident of FL but died in VA. His Will left everything to me. All of our real and personal property was held jointly with rights of survivorship so it was not necessary to probate the Will. However, we have a safe deposit box that we got 19 years ago, in anticipation of the Y2K scare, in which we placed some cash. After the scare, we removed the cash and used the box periodically. When I went to look in the box after his death, the bank could not find my signature card and I had never entered the box while my husband was living, thus my signature did not appear in their files. What is the easiest, quickest way to resolve this issue? I have been paying the yearly fee on the box since he passed. I am 99% confident that the box is empty but it continues to nag at me. What if I just stopped paying the fee? If something was in the box, would they have to contact me or just turn it over to the state?

Asked on June 19, 2018 under Estate Planning, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you have been appointed as personal representative (if your husband had no will) or were confirmed as his executor (if he had a will), then provide a copy of the appointment/confirmation to the bank, which will show that you have legal authority over his "estate" (the assets he left behind), which would include his safe deposit box. If you have not been so appointed or confirmed, apply to the probate court in the county in which you and your husband resided to be so appointed or confirmed; the court clerks' office (and/or website) can provide you information about how to do this.

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