Needing access to a deceased family member’s safe deposit box is a common issue many families face as they prepare to pass a last will and testament through probate in New York Surrogate’s Court. While many assume they can simply bring their loved one’s death certificate and box key to the bank and explain the situation to the bank manager, the truth is that most bank officials will turn down these requests without proper paperwork from the Surrogate Court.
When faced with the impasse, many individuals look at the situation as a catch 22. On the one hand, access to the safe deposit box is needed to probate the will and on the other hand, the safe deposit box cannot be accessed until the estate is probated. Fortunately, New York’s estates and trust laws are prepared for such scenarios and offer a somewhat streamlined process for gaining access to a safe deposit box where a will and other important documents may be stored.
New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, Section 2003 gives interested parties, those with claims to an estate, the right to request access to the deceased’s safe deposit box for the purpose of uncovering the last will and testament. To gain an “Order to Open Safe Deposit Box,” the interested party will need to file the necessary paperwork with a copy of the death certificate and applicable fee.