Safes & Safe Deposit Boxes in Estates | What’s the Risk?
- December 29, 2022 - Estate Litigation, Trust Litigation,
I’m Mike Hackard with Hackard Law. We litigate contingency fee trust and estate disputes.
Hundreds of things can go wrong in trust formation and trust administration. Some preventive measures can help to make some things go right.
Safe deposit boxes and home safes are common in family estates. Safe deposit boxes cannot be accessed by anybody. In California, co-renters can access the box without other co-renters present. If the renter is deceased, the person accessing the box must provide a death certificate, driver’s license or other valid ID, and the key to the box.
It is my experience, at least as to litigated cases, I’ve never seen it where a decedent provided anyone with a safety deposit box inventory – or for that matter a home safe inventory. It’s little wonder that there’s a lot of mystery about these boxes – whether at the bank or at home.
California’s safe deposit box inventory form for unclaimed property is a good prompt for doing your own inventory. Things that you might want to include in the box are:
- Birth Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Your Last Will and Testament
- Your Trust
Then there’s jewelry, other important documents and valuables, and the list goes on.
Home safes present different issues. We’ve litigated dozens of cases where one or more parties believed that cash – maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash – was in the decedent’s safe. Some stories were credible, some not.
What we’ve never seen is a decedent’s dated list or inventory of assets in a home safe. Safes regularly get cleaned out after a trust settlor’s death. And if there’s no inventory, there’s no way to verify just what was in the safe. Different cases come to mind, but I can remember tales of gold coins and stacks of hundred-dollar bills that vanished without a trace.
It really helps to have a simple inventory of what’s in your safe. With one copy in the safe, another copy should be kept somewhere else and a loved one should know about it.
That’s my quick lesson on safes, safe deposit boxes, and inventories. I hope that it helps to prevent some downstream estate theft.
If you have an estate or trust case and you want to talk about it call us at Hackard Law: 916 313-3030. We’ll work to get you the money you deserve.
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Attorney Michael Hackard
Michael Hackard is a top rated “AV” for over 20 years (“AV Preeminent is a significant rating accomplishment- a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.”). Avvo also ranks him with their highest rating – “ 10.0 Rating – ‘Superb.’” Michael is also a “SuperLawyer” – an honor reserved for no more than five percent of attorneys in each state. [ Attorney Bio ]
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