What Happens if I Pass Away and My Original Will is Locked in a Safe Deposit Box?

Recently, we had a client pass away leaving their original will in a safe deposit box at their local bank here in Pinellas County, Florida (because a safe deposit box can be a “safe” place for important papers). However, the safe deposit box was registered only in the name of the client, so her children did not have legal authority to open her safe deposit box after she passed away.

Panicked, the client’s children came to us as the estate planning attorney for their parent asking how they would get access to the safe deposit box and their parent’s original will locked inside.

Fortunately, in Florida, there is a law that solves this dilemma. The law states that with the safe deposit box owner’s original death certificate (or other satisfactory proof of death) the following people can be granted access to the safe deposit box without a court order: the surviving spouse, parent, adult child, or person named as the Personal Representative in the will.

However, these people can only open the safe deposit box to look for the original will in the presence of a bank employee. The bank employee is then required to take possession of the original will and send it to the local probate court in preparation for the Florida probate process.