The loss of a parent can be devastating. When you are grieving, you may not have the time or energy to process your own emotions—let alone deal with your parent’s outstanding legal affairs. However, when a loved one passes away, the state expects their family or appointed executive to initiate probate proceedings. You may have to collect, inventory, and appraise your parent’s possessions, including those that are not already inside their house. If your mother or father had a safe deposit box, you may also have to secure its contents. Accessing your parent's safe deposit box

While Louisiana affords certain people the right to access a deceased person’s safe deposit box, you will have to follow specific procedures to ensure access.

The Significant of Safe Deposit Boxes

People use safe deposit boxes for a variety of reasons. They are often used to store:

  • Cash currency
  • Bonds
  • Jewelry
  • Important legal documents

Whenever a Louisiana resident passes away, these valuable possessions must be inventoried and appraised as a part of probate proceedings. If your parent wrote a will, they may have already appointed an estate representative to settle their estate.

However, if your parent did not name an estate representative—or they nominated you for their role—you may be tasked with accessing their safe deposit box. This could be critically important, especially if you have reason to believe their will, trust document, or other estate planning documents are stored there.

Accessing a Louisiana Safe Deposit Box

If your parent had a comprehensive estate plan, they should have named someone as an heir or beneficiary to its contents.

However, many people do not account for their own death when they rent a safe deposit box. While you might be the rightful heir to your parent’s possessions, Louisiana law permits banks to treat customer property in accordance with their contract until they have received evidence that the account-holder has passed away.

In order to access the safe deposit box, you must:

  • Initiate probate proceedings. If you have been tasked with initiating probate, you must do so in accordance with Louisiana’s probate timeline. Once you have informed the court of your parent’s death and started the probate process, you can obtain the paperwork needed to access the safe deposit box.
  • Petition the probate court for paperwork. If you have been appointed the estate representative, you must secure letters testamentary, letters of administration (for someone who died without a will), or letters of independent administration from the probate court. Each of these documents serves a similar purpose, in that they grant an estate representative the authority to access and take control of a deceased person’s assets.
  • Contact the bank. Once you have obtained the required paperwork, you are entitled to retrieve assets from the safe deposit box.

You may also wish to write a letter to the bank informing them of your parent’s death. This may expedite the time it takes for the bank to allow you access to their safe deposit box.

Why You May Need an Attorney’s Help

While the process of accessing a deceased parent’s safe deposit box may appear simple on paper, Louisiana’s probate courts might demand evidence that you are entitled to act as an estate representative. Obtaining such evidence could be difficult—especially if your parent’s will is inside a safe deposit box you cannot access.

A Louisiana succession attorney could guide you through the process, helping you get the paperwork you need to access the safe deposit box. We can also help you resolve your parent’s estate by:

  • Assuming the role of estate representative
  • Initiating probate
  • Gathering, inventory, and appraising your parent’s assets
  • Paying any outstanding estate debts and taxes
  • Distributing gifts to heirs and beneficiaries
  • Closing the estate and finalizing the probate process

Contact Us Today

Losing a parent can be difficult, especially when you have been tasked with settling their affairs. You will have to meet many different deadlines—and if you miss one, you could be held financially liable by the beneficiaries or even the creditors.

You do not need to shoulder the responsibility of acting as their estate representative by yourself. The attorneys at Scott Vicknair, LLC have decades of experience helping Louisianans navigate the complexities of probate. Send us a message online to schedule your free initial consultation.