Safe Deposit Boxes

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Many people store important information, and sometimes valuables, in safe deposit boxes.

Any person whose name is on a bank's list of authorized users for a given box may access it at any time. That being said, once the owner/lessee of the box passes away, you may be required by law (or the bank), to open the box in the presence of a witness and to record an inventory of everything found there.

If you have not yet been named executor, you can ask the bank to search the box for a will and if the will confirms that you are to be named executor, the bank officer will allow you to take the will.

If you have already been appointed executor, you can open the box yourself, but you must do so in the presence of an authorized witness (usually a bank officer) and record an inventory of everything found there. The authorized witness will help you fill out the required government forms and submit them.

An executor cannot remove anything (other than the will) until receiving permission from the government, in response to aforementioned form submission. If the decedent owned/leased the safe deposit box along with someone else, the executor must also obtain written permission from that other person before removing anything. And in Quebec, the protections work in the other direction as well: anyone with existing access to the safe deposit box must also obtain the executor's written permission before removing anything.

See Dominion Succession Duty Regulations (SOR/54-743) §§ 9 et seq).

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