You’re Dead; Who Has Access to Your Safe Deposit Box?

HNWElder Law, Estate Administration and Probate

  • Banks in New Jersey have a policy regarding access to a safe deposit box upon the death of the owner
  • Knowing your Bank’s policy will ensure easier access to your safe deposit box upon your death

Safe deposit box Bank Policies Toward a Safe Deposit Box

I have recently investigated my bank’s policy regarding access to my safe deposit box upon my death. I have heard of horror stories by family members when trying to access a deceased family member’s box.  I want to avoid similar problems for my Estate, so I decided to research the subject further.

Most banks in New Jersey have a policy regarding access to a safe deposit box upon the death of the owner.  I encourage you to personally call and ask your bank manager for their policy.  In the case of my bank, I learned that upon my death an immediate family member can gain access to my box, if they obtain a copy of my death certificate.  Of course, family members need to know where the key is, which is another issue.   When accompanied by a bank representative, a family member can retrieve important papers like your Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, Social Security information, Life Insurance policies, etc.   No personal property or physical contents can be removed from the box and a bank representative will be present during this process.

In the alternative, once an Executor/Executrix or Administrator(rix) is appointed by the County Surrogate, the Estate representative can have unrestricted access to the contents of the safe deposit box without the presence of a bank representative.  Why is that important?   Perhaps you have cash and/or other property in your safe deposit box that you prefer to keep private.

It may be important to you that a bank representative not be present during the inventory of your box, but realize that while the Executor(rix) is  under a duty of “loyalty and honesty” by your Estate, there will be no way to independently verify the contents of the safe deposit box unless someone else is present or there is independent proof prior to death of the contents of the box which is known to all interested persons.

I thought that you would find this discussion interesting and it may make the administration of your Estate less controversial.

To discuss your NJ estate administration and probate matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing or telephone consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County NJ Estate Administration and Probate Attorney

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