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Ownership of Safe Deposit Box Contents

Written by on Jan 24, 2017| Posted in: General

Who owns the contents of a safe-deposit box when two people are on the box and one dies?

The answer may depend on what is specifically provided in the lease or rental agreement with the bank.  In other words, does the bank have a written policy regarding who owns and/or who can enter the box in the event of death of one of the co-owners?  If the bank does not have specific rules, the Florida law provides that if a safe-deposit box is rented or leased in the names of two or more lessees, access to the safe-deposit box will be granted to either of them, regardless of whether or not the other lessee is living or competent.  But is access to the box the same as ownership of the content of the box?  First, there is no parallel statute that determines the ownership of the contents of safe deposit boxes.  Second, the registration of the safe deposit box may have nothing to do with ownership of the content of the box. The general rule is that contents of the safe deposit box are part of the probate estate unless the contents (a) are registered to a trust or (b) ownership of the contents is in some form of joint ownership (3) or the co-lessor can prove ownership separate and apart from the deceased person. 

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