Safe deposit box after death

Asked almost 4 years ago - Columbus, OH

My husband just died. He didn't have a will. I can't find his passport or any of his important documents; I suspect that he may have had a safe deposit box but never told me. If I don't know the location of the box or if one even existed, how do I find that information out? Is there a way?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. C L Huddleston III

    Pro

    Contributor Level 16

    Answered . I am sorry you are going through this. What you will learn is that someone who dies without a Will creates extra problems and hassles for loved ones, and anyone who reads this answer should take to heart the advice that everyone, rich or poor, should have a proper Will and should make sure someone else in the family knows where things are.

    You are going to need an attorney to help you with this. Most of us do not charge for an initial consultation to figure out what you need. An estate with no Will is known as an "intestate" estate. If you want to find out anything about your husband's assets (banks and investment firms will not give you information simply because you are his wife), you will need to go to the Probate Court and apply to be appointed as the "Administrator" of the estate. Most firms like ours who do lots of estate administration have lists of every bank in Central Ohio and are accustomed to contacting them to determine if the decedent has any accounts or safe deposit boxes.

    If your husband had a safe deposit box, it is probably at a bank where he had an account. One way you can find out whether or not he had a safe deposit box is by looking at the checkbook register and all statements over the past year to see if he was paying the box rental, either by check or by direct transfer from a bank account. Annual rental statements might well have come in December or January. If you go to the bank regularly and have a relationship with a teller or branch manager, he or she might be sympathetic enough at your situation to look it up for you (although they are not supposed to do that and could get fired for releasing information without authorization).

    There may be other aggravations such as transferring a car that was in his name, or collecting insurance policies or gaining access to funds in an account that was not joint. You need to gather up all information you have about real estate, cars, accounts, investments, pensions and other things and visit with a certified specialist in Estate Planning, Wills and Probate law.

  2. Jonathan Craig Reed

    Pro

    Contributor Level 16

    Answered . Sorry to hear about your husband's death. Most banks, credit unions etc. will not rent a safety deposit box to a person unless that person has an account there. From the mail you can probably figure out where he had accounts. With his death certicate in hand you can go to banks where he had an account and ask if he had a safety deposit box. If he does you will need a court order to get in. However, you may be able to find out if one exists.

  3. Michael S. Haber

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . My colleague's response is in all respects correct. I just wanted to make one additional point. Many persons have a safe deposit box in a bank in which they previously had accounts, but long since closed or moved those accounts. If you cannot find a safe deposit box among the banks in which your husband had accounts, try looking through his canceled checks for the past year or so. Banks charge an annual fee for a safe deposit box.

    Good luck to you.

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