Gaining Access to Decedent’s Safety Deposit Box

A safety deposit box may be opened by its lessee or the lessee’s authorized agent.  A lessee’s authorized agent includes his/her Personal Representative, Attorney-in-Fact, Special Representative, or the Trustee of his/her Living Trust.  RCW 22.28.030

Problem: Decedent is the lessee of a safety deposit box; you want to access it; and you are not among the authorized agents listed above.

In King County, the Court may authorize that the safety box be opened and any estate documents in it be delivered to the named Personal Representative or filed with the Court.  King County Local Rule LR 98.04(d).  The relevant forms are:

The depository is entitled to receive from the person receiving the Will and at his/her expense:

  • A receipt for, and a copy of, the Will; and
  • The depository’s expenses attributable to delivering the Will, including fees and mileage expenses, the latter at the same rate as for a witness.  King County Probate Policy & Procedure Manual, § 3.3.3.

For a Court in another county, check that county’s local Superior Court Rules for similar authority, and if no such authority obtains, a Special Administrator may need to be appointed in order to open the safety box and obtain any estate documents in it.  See RCW 11.32.010.

As for all other contents of the safety box, their collection and disposition must await the appointment of a Personal Representative.