Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Upon the death of a Minnesota resident, the decedent’s Minnesota Personal Representative has a duty to search for any Minnesota Safe Deposit Box or boxes which might hold either:

  • important estate documents, or
  • assets of the decedent’s estate.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box; One Renter

If a Minnesota decedent had rented a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box from a bank or a Safe Deposit Box company, but the decedent renter’s survivors do not have a key to the box, there are certain Minnesota statutory procedures which will allow the survivors to request from the bank or Safe Deposit Box company where the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is located:

  • access to the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – by drilling the lock open if necessary, and
  • preparation of an Inventory of assets, or other report, for filing with the Minnesota probate court regarding its contents.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box; Two Renters

When a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box had been rented from any licensed bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company in the name of two or more persons, including spouses, with the right of access being given to:

  • any of the co-renters while they are alive, or
  • the survivor of any of the co-renters,

any one or more of these co-renters, whether any others are alive or not, shall have:

  • the right of access to the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box, and
  • the right to remove all, or any part, of the contents of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box.

When a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box rental agreement provides that no person should have access to the box except:

  • the renter, or,
  • upon the renter’s death, the renter’s legal representative(s),

a Minnesota probate court must determine the identity of the renter’s legal representative(s) before a bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company can be required to surrender possession of the contents of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box.

Relationship Between a Bank or Safe Deposit Box Company and a Renter

The relationship between a bank or Safe Deposit Box company and a renter of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is analogous to that of a landlord and tenant.

Therefore, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company is never deemed to be in possession of the contents of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box, which would subject it to a legal action for replevin to recover such contents brought by a person who was not entitled to possession of the contents under the terms of the Safe Deposit Box rental agreement.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Duty to Open

Upon being furnished with satisfactory proof of death of a sole renter, or the last surviving co-renter of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box, a bank or Safe Deposit Box company shall:

  • open the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box, and
  • examine its contents,

in the presence of an individual who appears in person, and furnishes an affidavit stating that such individual believes the Safe Deposit Box may contain:

  • the Will,
  • a deed to a cemetery burial lot,
  • a document containing instructions for the burial of the Safe Deposit Box renter, or
  • property belonging to the estate of the Safe Deposit Box renter;

and that the individual is an interested person – as defined in the applicable Minnesota statutes – and wishes to open the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box for any one or more of the following purposes:

  • to conduct a Will search;
  • to obtain a document required to facilitate the Safe Deposit Box renter’s wishes regarding body, funeral, or burial arrangements; or
  • to obtain an Inventory of the contents of the Safe Deposit Box.

Prohibitions on Opening a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

The bank or Safe Deposit Box company may not open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box pursuant to the above identified procedure if it has received a copy of:

  • letters of authority from the Minnesota Personal Representative of the deceased renter’s estate, or
  • other applicable court order.

Not Required to Open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

The bank or Safe Deposit Box company need not open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box if:

  • the Safe Deposit Box has previously been opened for a similar purpose; or
  • the bank or Safe Deposit Box company has received notice of a written or oral objection from any person, or has reason to believe that there would be an objection.

In addition, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company need not open the Safe Deposit Box if the Box renter’s key or combination is not available, or has been lost.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Interested Persons

For purposes of the above procedures, the term “interested person” in Minnesota means any of the following:

  • a person named as the Minnesota Personal Representative in a purported Will of the Safe Deposit Box renter;
  • a person who immediately prior to the death of the Safe Deposit Box renter, was authorized in writing to access the Safe Deposit Box – which writing was filed with the bank or Safe Deposit Box company before death;
  • the surviving spouse of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter;
  • a devisee of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter; or
  • an heir of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter;

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Will Searches

If a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is opened for the purpose of conducting a Will search, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company shall:

  • remove any document that appears to be the Safe Deposit Box renter’s Will,
  • make a true and correct copy thereof,
  • replace the copy of the Will in the Safe Deposit Box, and
  • deliver the original of such Will to a Minnesota probate court for the county in which the Safe Deposit Box renter resided immediately before the Safe Deposit Box renter’s death – if known to the safe deposit company, or if not known, the Minnesota county in which the Safe Deposit Box is located.

The original Will must be either personally delivered, or sent to the appropriate Minnesota probate court by U.S. registered mail.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Deed to a Burial Lot

If the interested person so requests:

  • any deed to a Minnesota burial lot, or
  • any document containing instructions for the burial of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter,

may be copied by the bank or Safe Deposit Box company, and the copy or copies thereof delivered to the interested person.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Document Retrieval – Body, Funeral, or Burial Arrangements

If a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is opened for the purpose of obtaining a document required to facilitate the Safe Deposit Box renter’s wishes regarding his or her body, funeral, or burial arrangements:

  • any such document may be removed from the Safe Deposit Box, and delivered to the interested person,
  • providing that a true and correct copy of such document is retained in the Safe Deposit Box.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – Will Retrieval

If the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company discovers a document in the Safe Deposit Box that appears to be a Will, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company shall deliver the original Will to the Minnesota probate court for:

  • the county in which the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter resided immediately before the Box renter’s death, if known to the Safe Deposit Box company,
  • or if not known – the county in which the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is located.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Inventory of the Contents

If a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box is opened for the purpose of obtaining an Inventory of the contents of the Box, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company shall make, or cause to be made, an Inventory of the contents of the Safe Deposit Box, to which both:

  • an employee of the bank or Safe Deposit Box company, and
  • the interested person requesting the Inventory,

shall attest with their signatures – under penalty of perjury – to be correct, and complete.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Delivery of the Inventory to the Court

Within ten days of opening a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box pursuant to the above identified procedures, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company shall deliver the original Inventory of the contents of the Safe Deposit Box to the Minnesota probate court for:

  • the county in which the Safe Deposit Box renter resided immediately before the Safe Deposit Box renter’s death – if known to the Safe Deposit Box company,
  • or if not known – the county in which the Safe Deposit Box is located.

The Inventory must be either personally delivered, or sent by U.S. registered mail, to the appropriate Minnesota probate court.

At its discretion, the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company may release the Inventory document to legal counsel for the interested person who had petitioned for the opening of the Safe Deposit Box, for delivery to the appropriate Minnesota probate court.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Copy of the Inventory to the Interested Person

The interested person requesting the Inventory may demand that the bank or Safe Deposit Box company:

  • make a true and correct copy of any document in the box, including the completed Inventory form, and
  • deliver such copies to the interested person.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Empty

If a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box which was opened for the purpose of conducting:

  • an Inventory,
  • a Will search, or
  • a burial document search,

is completely empty, the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company will:

  • complete an Inventory of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box contents,
  • identifying that the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box was found to be empty.

Such an Inventory document must be signed by an employee for the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company, and by the interested person.

If an interested person so requests, the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company may provide a copy of the completed Inventory document to the interested person.

Thereafter, the interested person shall complete whatever documentation is required by the bank or Safe Deposit Box company in order to surrender the empty Minnesota Safe Deposit Box.

Subsequent Inquiries to the Bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company

If any other interested person under Minnesota law inquires about the status of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box after it has been surrendered, the bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company may state:

  • that the deceased renter had previously rented the box,
  • but that the box had been surrendered because it was empty.

Limited Liability of the Bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company

The bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company:

  • need not ascertain the truth of any statement made in any affidavit required to be furnished to the bank or Safe Deposit Box company, and
  • when acting in reliance upon any such affidavit, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company will be discharged as if it had dealt with the Minnesota Personal Representative of the estate of the Safe Deposit Box

The bank or Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company is not responsible:

  • for the adequacy of the description of any property included in an Inventory of the contents of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box,
  • nor for conversion of the property in connection with actions performed under this subdivision,

except for conversion by intentional acts of the bank or Safe Deposit Box company or its employees, directors, officers, or agents.

Declining to Open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

If a bank or Safe Deposit Box company is not satisfied that the Minnesota statutory requirements regarding access to Minnesota Safe Deposit Box by successors have been met, it may decline to open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box.

No Removal of Property from a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

No contents of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box – other than:

  • a Will, or
  • a document required to facilitate the decedent Minnesota Safe Deposit Box renter’s wishes regarding the disposition of his or her body, funeral, or burial arrangements,

may be removed pursuant to the above procedures, in the absence of receipt of a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Minnesota probate code.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Affidavits of Collection

Sometimes, the appointment of a Minnesota Personal Representative is not otherwise required because the size of a probate estate does not warrant such an appointment.

For example, if the total value of the decedent’s probate estate does not exceed $75,000.00, personal property probate assets can be collected by the decedent’s legitimate successors pursuant to the delivery of a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection to the person or entity in possession of such property, without the appointment of a Minnesota Personal Representative.

The requirements for collecting personal property pursuant to a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection include the following:

Thirty days after the death of a decedent, any person having possession of personal property belonging to the decedent shall deliver such property to a person claiming to be entitled to such property as the decedent’s successor, upon being presented with:

  • a certified death record of the decedent and
  • an affidavit, made by or on behalf of the person claiming to be entitled to the property, stating under oath – among other things – that:
  1. the value of the entire probate estate, determined as of the date of death, wherever located, including the contents of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed $75,000;
  2. no application or petition for the appointment of a Minnesota Personal Representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction; and
  3. the person making the claim is in fact entitled to such payment or delivery of the property.

Unless there is a dispute between successors, there is:

  • no court involvement,
  • no court filing fee, and
  • no publication or other notice requirements with respect to the use of a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection.

However, the person claiming the right to receive any assets pursuant to a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection:

  • must have the legal right to such assets, and
  • can be forced to release any property collected pursuant to a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection to its rightful claimant(s).

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Ownership of Contents

A person’s exclusive access to a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box does not conclusively prove ownership of the contents of the Safe Deposit Box by such person, as the contents of the Safe Deposit Box could:

  • belong to someone else, or
  • be subject to claims of others – including a Minnesota county for reimbursement of a Medical Assistance claim.

A Minnesota Safe Deposit Box rental agreement generally only addresses the bank or Deposit Box company’s:

  • statutory obligations under Minnesota law regarding the Safe Deposit Box, and
  • lack of liability for allowing access to anyone who is identified on the signature card for the Safe Deposit Box.

Two different Minnesota statutes may be applicable with respect to claiming ownership of the contents of the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box pursuant to a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection:

  • the probate code statutory provisions – which requires a 30 day waiting period since the date-of-death; and
  • the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box company statutory provisions – which clearly provide that the entire contents of a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box may be removed by a successor upon presentation of a Minnesota Affidavit of Collection to the bank or Safe Deposit Box

Nevertheless, the bank or Safe Deposit Box company may choose to wait until 30 days have passed since the date-of-death before releasing the contents from any Minnesota Safe Deposit Box.

Conclusion – Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Please contact Minnesota attorney Gary C. Dahle if you have need of assistance with respect to gaining access to a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box after the death of the renter of any such Safe Deposit Box, at 763-780-8390, or gary@dahlelaw.com.

 

 

Copyright 2017 – All Rights Reserved

Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law

2704 County Road 10, Mounds View, MN 55112

Phone:  763-780-8390    Fax: 763-780-1735

gary@dahlelaw.com

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