Can you access a safe deposit box to search for Estate Planning Documents?

19 May 2010 Categories: All Blogs, Estate Planning

In my Estate Planning practice, I am often asked if you should put the original copy of your Last Will and Testament into your safe deposit box at work. I usually advise my clients that they should not do so because it can be difficult, if not impossible, to access the contents of the box if you do not have the key and/or are not the owner of the box.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated § 45-2-905 (c)(2), “In order to search for and remove any written instrument purporting to be the lessee’s last will and testament, or any writing relating to a burial plot or burial instructions, or any writing purporting to be an insurance policy on the life of the lessee, a
lessor shall permit a person named in a court order for that purpose, or if no order has been served upon the lessor, the lessee’s spouse, parent, adult sibling or adult descendant, or a person named as executor in a copy of the lessee’s purported will provided to the lessor, or any person with a right of access to the safe deposit box immediately prior to the death of the lessee, to open the safe deposit box with an officer or employee of the lessor and remove the documents. A record of items removed from the box by the person authorized entry shall be made by the lessor and the other person. If a purported will is found that does not name as executor the person conducting the will search with the lessor’s representative, the lessor may make a copy thereof and mail or deliver it to the executor named therein, or to the court having jurisdiction of the decedent’s estate according to the decedent’s domicile as declared in the instrument;”

Using the language of this statute, you can access the contents of a safe deposit box to search for;

1) A Last Will and Testament,
2) Burial Instructions, or
3) Life Insurance Policies of the deceased.

This is valuable information to know if you cannot locate these important documents and you believe they may be located in the safe deposit box of the deceased.

If you would like further information or would like to ask a question about Estate Planning, please contact the attorneys at McNulty & Associates.

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