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Do I need a probate lawyer to open a Safe deposit box?

Imperial, MO |

My mother passed and left us no instructions. We are trying to find out what was in the safe deposit box, hoping to find a will or some direction.

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Attorney answers 4


In my state, unless you are on the safe deposit box account, you cannot access the box without an order from the probate court. The court usually will grant access to the box only to determine if there is a Will there or a deed to a burial plot. Nothing else can be removed without initiating probate proceedings. It could be different in MO, but it seems to me that you need to at least consult with a probate attorney before doing anything.

I am very sorry for your loss.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!


Attorney Frederick is correct. Many banks will perform a will search of the box, and if a will is found, send it to the probate court in the jurisdiction where the deceased person was a resident. Beyond that, you will need a probate attorney to enforce the will and/or gain access to the remaining items in the safe deposit box.

Side note to people signing their estate planning documents: This isn't a game of hide and seek! Be sure to discuss with your family at least that you have documents in place, where they are, and how to access them.

This answer is for informational purposes only and should not be considered specific legal advice, nor does it constitute an attorney-client relationship.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


Very good advice. I had never thought of the hide and seek aspect, but I like it.


Banks will do a "Will Search" if you have a key, all the better otherwise it will have to be drilled. If there is one then the bank will present it to the Court and you should retain counsel in any event.

Legal disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Missouri only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Missouri. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should never rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship. less


More than likely the lender will not provide access without court order. Contact a local probate attorney. This is more common than you think.

NOTE: The use of the Internet for communications with the firm or this attorney will not establish an attorney-client relationship and messages containing confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent.

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