Accessing Deceased's Safe Deposit Box

Accessing a safe deposit box of a deceased loved one is necessary to ensure the belongings are properly taken care of. Though it may be a difficult time to handle, it is important to take certain steps to make the process easier. It is important to know that any joint renter must be present when the box is opened and will have equal, and unrestricted, access to the box. Having a joint box holder is a simple way to avoid having issues when one of the box holders dies.

Speak directly with the bank manager regarding the specific bank rules and regulations to avoid confusion. Be sure to ask them about their rental agreement stipulations and legal requirements. As the banks frequently handle access to safety deposit boxes of deceased individuals, they are a very knowledgeable source of information and will be able to help.


In order to gain access to a deceased safe deposit box, a person will need to present a death certificate along with an executor's testament. The forms are required to prove legal rights to the box. Also, be prepared to provide a copy of the rental agreement and photo identification. A banking employee will then take the necessary steps to grant access to the box.

Spousal Rule

If the spouse of the deceased is alive, he or she may go to the banking facility where the box is located and get unrestricted access, provided they are able to present a death certificate. A marriage certificate may also be required. In states where common law marriage works as well as a legal marriage, if there is proof available to show the relationship as valid of the length of time designated by common law in your state, this may suffice for access.

Important Considerations

Check with the state's unclaimed property office to ensure proper compliance with all rules and regulations. Some states, such as Iowa, will allow the box owner to designate a list of people who may access the box and its contents in the event of their death.

States that do not have safe deposit box laws generally rely on the bank's safe deposit box rental contracts to cover the specifics of what happens to the box and its contents when the box holder dies. Simply having a power of attorney will not be enough to designate and earn access to a safe deposit box.

To avoid any issues with access to the safe deposit box when a person passes, make sure the person has information about where the safe deposit box is located, how to access it, and who can access it in a will. Without this information, making sure the items in the box get to where they should be may present a hassle for the family members. If there is no will, make sure another trusted individual has the appropriate information to access the box in the event of death. The easiest way to handle accessing a deceased's safety deposit box is to ensure the appropriate information is available to the beneficiary.