Is what the other attorney said true or do I have reason to retain an attorney to get the contents back? 17 Answers as of August 16, 2013

Before my grandpa passed away, he had me sign as a co-renter on his 2 safe deposit boxes. I was told that when he did pass I could take the contents of the boxes for my family and I to use for being out of town and off work. Once he passed the personal representative took possession of the keys to the boxes and retained an attorney who said I don't have ownership of the contents and they go into the estate for probate. I'm just confused because I was told by the banks attorneys that I do have ownership of the box and contents since I am a surviving lessee and I have first priority to access the box.

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O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C.
O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C. | Sean P. O'Keefe
In Maryland, it sounds like there is an issue whether there was a completed gift of whatever assets were in the safe deposit box. You may need to address that issue with the Orphans' Court or District Court to try to obtain the assets as non-probate property. You do not need an attorney but it may be helpful to use one.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 8/16/2013
Law Offices of Ezra N. Goldman
Law Offices of Ezra N. Goldman | Ezra Goldman
If what is in the box is valuable, I would fight about that.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/16/2013
Law Offices of Frances Headley | Frances Headley
You should consult an attorney to review all of the facts and determine if bringing a motion is warranted under your facts.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/16/2013
Stephens Gourley & Bywater | David A. Stephens
It depends on the title on the box. YOu may have to go to court to get it.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 8/16/2013
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
If your grandfather, by making you a joint owner of the boxes, and by giving you the keys (tell me he gave you a key) was making you a gift of the contents of the boxes IF he intended to make a gift of those things to you. If he kept part ownership of the box, and his own key, this argues against you. It would not be OK for him to try to make a testamentary gift this way (you can have this when I die). It had to be a current gift. So it's a tough argument, and comes down to "what's it worth to you?" If there was a lot of gold in the boxes, diamonds, the treasures of Scheherazade, then hire an attorney and take your best shot. If grandfather meant for you to have those things, his wishes should be respected. If there's not dollar value in the things, if you can't afford the attorney fees to take a run at the estate, then you may simply have to take your lumps. One last thing: people should write a will that says what they mean. That's the best estate plan.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 8/16/2013
    Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
    If you were a joint tenant of the box, the contents of the box became yours on your grandpa's death.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    Get an attorney. A case can be made for either position and it will depend on the facts.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Richard J. Keyes Attorney at Law | Richard J. Keyes
    In Missouri, you would be entitled to the contents of the box.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP | Kathleen DeLacy
    You should have ownership rights as a joint owner, however, the executor may be claiming he listed you as co-owner for convenience only and you did not contribute to anything, cash, in the box. Case law is split whether that is true or whether as joint owner you own by operation of law.
    Answer Applies to: Delaware
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    The Curran Law Firm
    The Curran Law Firm | Maura Curran
    Yes, you should engage an attorney to find out your rights. IF you are named on the box as co-tenant, depending on how it is titled, you either own all the contents of the box or half. IF you are not co-tenant, then you do not own contents unless there was some beneficiary designation to the box. You need to employ an attorney to find out what your ownership rights are.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Law Office of Pamela Braynon | Pamela Y. Braynon
    What the banks attorney told you is true. If the contents of the safe deposit box is valuable to you, you should hire an attorney to go before the judge that appointed the personal representative to retrieve your belongings that were in the safe deposit box.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Law Office of Thomas C. Phipps | Thomas C Phipps
    If any of the contents were co-owned by him and another person, the other person is entitled to the property. You will have to go through probate court to determine if you are entitled to any property.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    Looks like you will need to obtain a probate litigation attorney to represent you in probate litigation against the administrator of the estate, as the bank is correct, you are a co lease of the boxes, and are entitle to the contents. Question, why didn't you have a copy of the keys to the boxes?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    It is hard to say without reviewing the documents. You may need to litigate the issue in the probate court. I urge you speak with an attorney soon as time may be ticking to commence litigation in the Estate.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    James Law Group
    James Law Group | Christine James
    The bank is probably correct. if it was joint you should get it.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    It sounds like you are going to need to retain an attorney. I think you have an interesting question, and I could not give you an answer, without some additional research. It may depend on the agreement that was signed when the box was opened. It is worth hiring an attorney to pursue this, if the contents of the box were valuable. This was not a very good estate planning tool, in any event. Your grandfather should have made clear in his Will that the contents of the box were to go to you.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/16/2013
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    You have "ownership" rights to the extent of the right to access to a safe deposit box, but any contents in the box which belong to someone else are not yours just because they are there.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2013
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