A safety deposit box is meant to keep very important documents secure. Things that if you lost them, you’d be in big trouble. Documents such as birth or marriage certificates, property deeds, rare treasures or family heirlooms are great things to put in a safety deposit box. Typically, it’s not a good idea to put in your Will. This is because after the safety deposit box owner dies, it generally requires a court order to open the box.

Sometimes clients come to Lyons Sullivan knowing the decedent had a safe deposit box at a particular bank here in Bellevue, WA, and suspect there is an original Will in it. If the safe deposit box account is titled only in the name of the decedent a “Catch-22” exists, in that the client cannot obtain Letters Testamentary without the will and cannot obtain the Will with the Letters Testamentary. Even where the client held a durable power of attorney from the decedent, the authority granted by it terminates at the moment of the decedent’s death.

Our legal services provide a professional to represent clients in a special court proceeding authorizing the client to access the safe deposit box and remove any original Will found for filing with the court and probating by the named Personal Representative if necessary. In some counties it may be necessary to get the court to appoint a Special Administrator to access the safe deposit box. Disposition of the other contents of the safe deposit box must await the appointment of a Personal Representative or Administrator.