Bad Combo: Will and Safe Deposit Box

I recently had a rather unpleasant experience with a bank in trying to get an original will out of the bank’s safe deposit box. The client’s mother had just passed away and he knew that her will was locked in the safe deposit box. My client was not a signer on the safe deposit box. The box was in his deceased Mom’s own name.

Rule #1: Always put one or two trusted heirs/relatives on your safe deposit box so they can get access to it.
We met and I told my client that we could get access to the safe deposit box because he was an “interested person” as defined in the act (mainly he was “interested” in not being hassled to death by the bank). (The Safety Deposit Box Opening Act is an Illinois law that allows this.)

The law says that if an affidavit is produced saying that an original will may be in the safe deposit box, the bank will send the will directly to the clerk of court for filing. The bank will not allow access to any other things in the box. I put together an affidavit and my client drove to the bank. After 5 or 6 phone calls the bank refused to accept the form. They wanted the affidavit on their form.

Rule #2: Banks are hyper and follow routines set up by someone 50 years ago. Ask them first if they require their own form to be used (even if it reads the same as your form).

We got the will from the safe deposit box and can now open the probate estate.

Rule #3: Never lock an original will in a safe deposit box. Keep it at home and give copies to relatives/heirs with the location of the original marked on the copy.

Better yet sign a living trust, instead of a will. This will bypass the need to hunt down the original will like it was the treasure of the Sierra Madres.

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