If you have a family living trust and a safety deposit box your attorney will probably tell you to retitle the bank box into the trust. This way, if something happens to you, your successor trustee will automatically have access to it. Smooth.
To put the box into your trust all you have to do is go to the bank and tell them to change the ownership from your name into the name of the trust. Smoother still.
Not All Banks Allow You To Do This
Sometimes banks don’t play nice and won’t allow you to re-title your safety deposit box into your trust. Each bank has its own reasons of course but they are probably concerned about liability. They don’t want to place themselves in a potential conflict with your heirs. Some heirs could argue that all the contents of the box are part of the trust and others might argue they are not. This could easily turn into a big headache and some banks decide they don’t want any part of it.
But there is a problem. If your bank doesn’t allow you to put your deposit box into your trust and you just leave the box in your own name, your family could face huge difficulties getting to the box should something happen to you. Me no likey.
What To Do If Your Bank Won’t Re-Title Your Safe Deposit Box
Not to worry Pilgrim. If your bank won’t get with the program, you have plenty of alternatives. First, you can shop for a bank that is happy to comply with your request.
As easy as this sounds, it might not be an option for you because changing banks can be a pain. But if that’s the case, you still have some wiggle room.
First you can always talk to the bank and make your case – or allow your attorney to speak with the nice people down at the branch. This might work but I have my doubts. Banks are run by bureaucrats who mainly stick to the rules.
If you try that and still come up empty, you have to make some tough choices. While one option is to keep the box in your name alone, it’s not a good way to go as I explained above. Remember, the reason you are trying to re-title the assets is in order to make sure your family has access to the box should you die or become disabled.
With that in mind, see if the bank will allow you to use a Durable Power Of Attorney and re-title the box using Transfer on Death documents. The POA would appoint another person to act on your behalf should you become disabled – but the POA must be Durable in order to have effect if you become incapacitated. And if you die, the TOD document would spell out who gets the contents of the box. (All your bases are covered this way if you ask me but you should always talk to a qualified attorney when deciding how to title any asset. I’m not kidding so please take this added step.)
The downside to this strategy is that the contents would only go to the beneficiaries named on the Transfer on Death documents. The trust would have no impact.
If this strategy isn’t appropriate for your circumstances or the bank won’t allow you to go this route, your last option is to name someone else as a joint owner on the box. Of course there are problems with this approach too. When you name a joint owner, the other person automatically has full access to the box.
The best situation is to work with a bank which allows you to retitle your safety deposit box into your trust. If you can’t find a bank that will work with you on that, go back and ask your attorney which is the best course of action. But by understanding the pros and cons of the options, you’ll save time and money and be much more effective.
Is your safety deposit box in your trust? Was it difficult making the change? What happened?