Garton & Harris

Safety deposit boxes and estate administration

When a person in British Columbia dies, leaving behind a safety deposit box leased or rented either solely in his or her name or shared with another person, the law provides how the box should be opened and handled. This is important to ensure that the contents of the safety deposit box are correctly accounted for and included in the deceased person's estate.

The institution where the safety deposit box is located is not able to let people remove the box or its contents from the location until either the estate's representative or the other person whose name is also on the lease comes to the institution. The representative or co-owner must then prepare an inventory of the contents of the box in the presence of a person who is in control of where the box is held. He or she must leave a copy of that inventory inside of the box before removing the contents of it.

If a will is contained inside of the safety deposit box, the estate representative may remove the will after preparing the inventory. The inventory must be left in the safety deposit for at least 12 months, and a copy of it must also be kept by the person in control of the location for 12 months as well.

Although people may not think about what will happen to safety deposit boxes following death, many people keep copies of their wills, other important documents and valuables in them. Laws concerning estate administration are very specific in order to protect the assets of the estate. In that way, people can be assured their assets will pass to the people to whom they intend. If a person has a safety deposit box, they may want to inform their wills and estates lawyer of its location and contents while completing their estate plan.

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