Queens residents use safe deposit boxes to house important documents, and it is true that a safe deposit box at your bank is a good place to keep papers such as title deeds and stock certificates. However, for various reasons, there are other documents that should not be placed in a safe deposit box. These include your estate planning documents, like your will.
Part of the problem is that you and your family will not have twenty-four hour access to the safe deposit box. According to U.S. News and World Report, if you or a loved one need a document in a hurry, there is the risk that the bank will be closed. You might have to wait for the next day or the beginning of the next week to get access to the documents.
Storing estate documents in a safe deposit box also might cause a legal quandary. As the owner of the box, only you can open it. Once you pass away, the box has no legal owner. You might have appointed an executor to take care of your estate, but the executor needs the original copy of the will to receive an appointment by a probate court. But if the original will is in the box, the executor cannot get access to it to file it with a probate court.
This scenario can take time to resolve. The surviving family of the deceased could secure a court order to open the box and retrieve the will, but this might eat up time and money to get accomplished. While states can make laws that direct banks to remove a will from a decedent’s box and file it with the court, it may require research or consultation with an attorney to find out how New York law addresses this matter.
To make accessing a will easier and without possible legal hassle, some people opt to keep their will inside a fireproof safe in their home or keep their original copy of their will with their attorney. This is a good route to take for other estate planning documents such as your living will or other health care directives. In the event you pass away or are incapacitated, your loved ones should be able to access whatever documents they need to put your estate plans into motion.
Since New York residents have many different needs when it comes to estate planning, do not consider this article as legal advice. Read it only for your educational benefit.