Should you keep your will in a safe deposit box? Not unless you ensure your executor, trustee, or a trusted loved one will have access to your box after your death! This is important because if you pass away as the only owner of the box, your executor cannot open the box. Why? Because the original will must be presented to the probate court before the executor you named has any power!

In Ohio, there are several steps for a family member of the deceased to complete to open a deceased persons’s safety deposit box:

Safe Deposit Box

  1. Ask the probate court to appoint a person (often the estate’s attorney) to act as commissioner of the safe deposit box.
  2. Have the commissioner open the box in front of the family member and an employee of the bank.
  3. Inventory the contents of the safe deposit box in the presence of the family member and employee of the bank. The inventory must be signed by the family member, commissioner, and bank employee.
  4. Report the contents of the safety deposit box to the probate court.

Only after these steps are completed can the original will (that was in the safe deposit box) be presented to the probate court along with the other documents required to open the probate estate.

To avoid this problem which adds cost and time to administering the probate estate, consider the following options:

  1. Create a revocable living trust and have the trust be named as the owner of the box. This way, you will have access to the box during your life because you are the trustee. Then, if you become incapacitated or die, the successor trustee you named in your trust will automatically have authority to open the box.
  2. You could also add a joint owner to your safety deposit box. The problems with this option are that the person can enter the box at any time, even if you are not incapacitated or dead, and if the person you name as a joint owner becomes incapacitated or dies, there is no backup named like there would be in a revocable living trust. If this occurs, we are back to square one.
  3. Deposit your will for safekeeping with your county’s probate court.
  4. Place your will in a fireproof safe and make sure your executor(s) know where they can obtain the key or combination after you pass away.

Need help creating a trust to ensure the contents of your safe deposit box can be accessed without going through probate? Golowin Legal can help. Call us today at (614) 453-5208 to schedule a meeting or Zoom conference. Visit the Golowin Legal estate planning page for more information.

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