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Using safe deposit boxes for estate planning documents

Once an individual or family has completed their estate plan, the next step is to determine how to properly store the resulting documents. In order for one's estate planning efforts to produce the desired results, the designated individuals who will handle the estate will need to access the documents that make up the overall plan. Securing a safe deposit box is an excellent option for many New Jersey families, but it is important to understand how these boxes are used.

Each bank has a set of rules regarding safe deposit boxes and how they can be accessed. After all, having a high level of security is the very reason why so many people choose to place their important paperwork into a safe deposit box. It should be assumed that the bank staff will play an active role in safeguarding the contents of these boxes.

One option is to draft a special power of attorney that will allow the designated person to come to the bank and access the contents of the box. However, it is important to ensure that the power of attorney is one that the bank will recognize. Many banks will only allow the use of their own forms for this purpose, and will not honor any other powers of attorney.

The person who will access this box may be required to produce a large volume of paperwork to verify that he or she is authorized to access the safe deposit box. This may include multiple forms of identification, proof of the death of the holder of the box, proof of the relationship between the holder and the party and so on. When the box is opened, a bank employee will be present, and many banks require that the contents of the box be inventoried and photographed before anything is removed.

Choosing a safe deposit box as a means of securely storing estate planning documents is a good choice for many New Jersey families. However, in order for this approach to be successful, it is essential that the bank's rules are followed to the letter. In addition, it is also imperative that the party who will be given authority to open the box is made aware of the location of the box and the requirements to gain access.  

Source: lakeconews.com, "Estate Planning: The safe deposit box", Dennis Fordham, Sept. 11, 2015

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