Compliance Question of the Week

What happens if the person who is renting a safe deposit box dies? Who has access?

A credit union must exercise due care to prevent the opening of the safe deposit box by any person other than the renter, or his or her duly authorized agent. A duly authorized agent includes a personal representative, attorney in fact, special representative or a trustee acting under a revocable living trust. Upon the death of an individual, a personal representative will be appointed to settle the estate. The court will determine the proper personal representative and issue letters testamentary to the appointed executors. An individual attempting to gain access to a safe deposit box of a deceased member should present letters testamentary stating they are the personal representative.

In addition, ownership of the contents of a safety deposit box is not determined by any lease provisions creating a joint tenancy or transfer at one lessee’s death. For instance, a lease provision stating that two or more persons have access to the box, attempts to create a joint tenancy in the contents of the box, or attempts to vest ownership of the contents in the surviving lessee, is ineffective to create joint ownership of the contents or to transfer ownership at death of one lessee to the survivor. Ownership of the contents will be determined by rules of law without regard to lease provisions.

Related Links
RCW 22.28.030

RCW 11.28.010

RCW 11.48.010

RCW 11.02.130

ORS 708A.655


Questions? Contact the Compliance Hotline: 1.800.546.4465,

Posted in Compliance News.