The search for a last will and testament and other papers is one of the first steps to take after someone passes away. The will is generally needed to start the probate process. Beneficiary forms are needed to get access to accounts. The list goes on and on.
While the interested parties may be able to gain access to the decedent’s home or business, they may not be sure if they can access the decedent’s safe deposit box. This raises questions as to who can access safe deposit boxes when someone dies? Texas law provides for this.
Who Can Access a Safe Deposit Box?
When someone has a safe deposit box and they die, the bank may refuse to allow anyone to access the box. The assets in the box are not lost, however.
As explained below, Texas law allows joint owners, the decedent’s spouse, parent, descendant who is over 18 years of age, or the person who is named as executor in the decedent’s will (if the person is able to produce a copy of the will), access to the decedent’s safe deposit box.
As a practical matter, most banks will typically allow these parties supervised access to the contents of the safe deposit box if the party produces a death certificate and their identification.
But some banks refuse to allow anyone other than the decedent to access the safe deposit box. This usually happens when a non-spouse executor or the decedent’s brothers or sisters try to access the box. This may require the parties to get a court order to access the safe deposit box.
Getting a Court Order
Texas law provides a relatively simple means for obtaining a court order if the bank refuses access. To obtain a court order, you must file an application with the probate court.
Chapter 151 of the Texas Estates Code outlines the rules and procedures for examining a decedent’s documents or safe deposit boxes.
Section 151.001 allows a judge of a court that has probate jurisdiction of a decedent’s estate to order a person to permit a court representative named in the order to examine a decedent’s documents or safe deposit box and the representative can take possession of the documents and deliver them to the appropriate person or entity.
Access Without a Court Order
Alternatively, Section 151.003 allows certain individuals, such as the decedent’s spouse or parent, to permit the examination of a decedent’s document or safe deposit box without a court order.
While Section 151.004 outlines how these individuals can deliver the documents to the appropriate parties. Section 151.005 restricts the removal of the contents of a decedent’s safe deposit box, except to deliver the will to the county clerk, etc. These rules and procedures aim to ensure that a decedent’s documents and assets are properly handled and distributed according to their wishes.
While the interested parties can access the decedent’s home or business, accessing their safe deposit box may not be straightforward. Fortunately, Texas law outlines who can access the decedent’s safe deposit box. However, some banks may refuse access, requiring parties to obtain a court order. Seeking the help of a Houston probate attorney can simplify the process of navigating the probate process and ensuring a decedent’s wishes are fulfilled.
If you need help with your Texas probate matter, call us today for a FREE attorney consultation at (281) 219-9090.
Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with accessing safety deposit boxes. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.