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Can an authorized person go to a safety deposit box of someone who is dying without penalty from probate?

Orlando, FL |

I am trying to convince my mother to speak with an attorney before her mother passes away. My grandmother has stage-4 lung cancer and still of sound mind. She gave authorization to both of her daughters to visit the safety deposit box. Inside the safety deposit box are 2 savings bonds totaling $50,000 in an envelope labeled For [my mother's name]. If my mother were to go to the box and take the savings bonds which are made out to either [my mother OR her mother] or [my mother AND her mother], will there be a penalty in probate court once my grandmother passes away? My mother is not the personal representative of the estate/trust, nor given power of attorney; However, she is one of the beneficiaries on the trust and will. To her knowledge there is no inventory list of the contents.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

The will is not effective and probate has no jurisdiction until the principal dies. Your grandmother can remove anything she wants from the safe deposit box. If your grandmother has given permssion for your mother to enter the safe deposit box and remove the contents before she dies, she can do so. If the savings bond is in your mother's name, your mother can cash the bond.

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Asker

Posted

If grandma does not give the authorization to go to remove anything from the box, but my mom has authorization with the bank to open the box at any time, which was set up by grandma, is that the same? Also, she has reason to believe the executor will be unhappy with her removing anything from the box, which is why she is worried about probate after my grandmother passes.

Frank Joseph Tylman Jr.

Frank Joseph Tylman Jr.

Posted

If your grandmother has given the bank permission for your mother to access the box, then bank will allow her to do so. Of course, your grandmother can withdraw permission at any time. The executor has no authority under the will until your grandmother dies and the will takes effect. Having said that, your mother might want to consider if she really wants to create ill will with the personal representative at this delicate time.

Asker

Posted

Thank you very much Attorney Tylman. I appreciate your time.

Frank Joseph Tylman Jr.

Frank Joseph Tylman Jr.

Posted

Happy to help.

Posted

Attorney Tylman gave you excellent advice. As he mentions, even after your Grandmother passes, if the bonds are MADE OUT TO your mother, then they are hers. If they are made out to your mother AND your grandmother, then they will belong to the survivor of either of them. If they are made out to your mother OR your grandmother then either one can cash them without the others signature. So long as your mother is a signatory on the safe deposit box and that has not been revoked by your grandmother, then she may access the box without penalty. If your mother waits until after your grandmother passes to open the box, then the contents become part of the probate estate and will be potentially tied up until after an inventory has been done.

My answer is of a general nature and should not be construed to be legal advice nor creating an attorney-client relationship. Carol Johnson Law Firm, P.A. practices in the area of Wills, Trusts, and Estates, Disability - with a particular focus on providing Special Needs Trusts for disabled children and adults.

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Posted

If the bonds are made out to your mother, they pass outside of probate anyway. So the other attorneys advice is good advice. Good luck.

Sincerely,
B. Elaine Jones, Esq.

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Posted

Attorneys Tylman and Johnson have given you very sound advice.

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1 comment

Bette-Anne Kester Conrad

Bette-Anne Kester Conrad

Posted

The other lawyers have given you good basic advice. I would just add: the phrase "made out to your mother" does not mean that your grandmother is shown as the "owner" of the bond but the bond is made payable to your mother, as the "beneficiary." It means that, in the space for "Owner" or "Holder" it shows only your mother's name - or it shows "[grandmother's name] OR [mother's name]." Sometimes when there are two names with "and" instead of "or" between the names, it can be a problem. I always suggest that people go to the bank and ask to see the actual "signature card"/"bank agreement" for the bonds, to be sure how they are really titled and who the banks says has the power to cash in any bond that has two names on it. NOTE: Even if they would require your grandmother's signature, if your grandmother had signed a Durable Power of Attorney appointing your mother as her "attorney-in-fact," including giving her banking powers, then your mother should be able to sign the bonds as her "attorney-in-fact" for her and cash them out before grandmother's death, but not after her death. I am sorry for your situation, and I hope your mother can get this done with minimal

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