When an individual who rents a safe deposit box dies, financial institutions must follow certain procedures determined by South Carolina law to protect theproperty of the deceased. While the following is the normal requirements to open a bank box, some banks may have slightly different procedures.

Upon notification of death, the deposit box is sealed by the institution. No one is allowed sole access to the box. Certain relatives or a party with a Power of Attornorney to Open Safe Deposit Box allowing access may search the box for a last will and testament, insurance papers, or deed to a burial plot. The relative must offer positive identification as a qualifying relative of the deceased and search the box in the presence of a bank officer and another employee. A statement is signed by all present that states exactly what took place on this occasion.

If a will is found, it may be given only to the personal representative (executor) named in the will. A receipt for the will is obtained by the vault attendant. If insurance policies on the life of the deceased are found, they may be given only to the beneficiary or beneficiaries named on the policy. A receipt for the policy is obtained by the vault attendant.

Any paper that appears to be a deed to a burial plot or that gives burial instructions may be given to any relative who is eligible to search the box and chooses to handle the burial. A receipt for the papers or deed is obtained by the vault attendant.

No other items may be removed from the safe deposit box at the time of the initial search. After obtaining the proper South Carolina Probate Court documentation, the personal representative may enter the box and inventory the contents in the presence of a bank officer or vault attendant.

The documentation required for this search is a Certificate of Appointment as Personal Representative. This inventory must be itemized in detail, including the opening of all bound packages, even if they are marked property of someone other than the deceased. The inventory is then signed by the Personal Representative and the bank employee in the presence of a notary public. The notary public must sign also. It is then sent to the South Carolina Department of Revenue & Taxation with a request for a waiver.

Nothing other than the items listed above may be removed from the safe deposit box until a tax waiver has been received from the South Carolina Department of Revenue & Taxation or a ten-day period has elapsed since the Department of Revenue & Taxation was notified and no objections have been made. Once a waiver has been received the contents of the box may be removed by the personal representative and the box closed, or the box may be placed in the name of the personal representative.


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