Upon the death of a Minnesota resident, the Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate has a duty to search for any Minnesota safe deposit boxMinnesota safe deposit boxes which might hold important documents, or assets of the decedent’s estate.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes - Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Minnesota Safe Deposit Box –

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes

Upon the death of a Minnesota resident, the Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate has a duty to search for any Minnesota safe deposit box or Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes which might hold important documents, or assets of the decedent’s estate.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes – Defined

M.S. Section 55.01, Subd. 2 defines “Minnesota Safe deposit boxes” in the following manner:

The words “safe deposit box” mean any box, safe, safe deposit box, receptacle, or any part or parts thereof, and any space in a vault, which may be used for the safekeeping and storage of valuable personal property.

Minnesota Valuable Personal Property – Defined

M.S. Section 55.01, Subd. 3 defines the  term “valuable personal property” in the following manner:

The words “valuable personal property” mean jewelry, plate, money, specie, bullion, stocks, bonds, valuable papers, or other personal property of value.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Company – Defined

M.S. Section 55.01, Subd. 5 defines the  term “Safe Deposit Company” in the following manner:

Safe deposit company” means any person who lets out or rents, as lessor, for hire, safe deposit boxes, or space therein.

However, M.S. Section 55.15 identifies that certain of the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 55 shall not apply to a bank, savings bank, credit union, or trust company – which are otherwise regulated by the federal government.

Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes; One Renter

If a Minnesota decedent:

  • had rented a Minnesota safe deposit box from any licensed bank or Safe Deposit Box Company (hereinafter, the “Safe Deposit Box Company”),
  • but the decedent renter’s survivors do not have a key to the box,

Minnesota statutory procedures allow the survivors to request from the Safe Deposit Box Company where the Minnesota safe deposit box is located:

  • access to the 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 Boxes; Two Renters

When Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes have been rented from any 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
  • with access allowed to 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 boxes, and
  • the right to remove all, or any part, of the contents of the Minnesota safe deposit boxes.

Where a Minnesota safe deposit box rental agreement provided that no one should have access to the box except:

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

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

Relationship Between a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company and a Renter  

The relationship between a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company and a safe deposit box renter is analogous to that of a landlord and tenant.

Therefore, the Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company is never deemed to be in possession of the contents of the safe deposit box which would subject it to a legal action to recover such contents brought by a person who was not otherwise entitled to possession thereof under the terms of the safe deposit box rental agreement.

Safe Deposit Box Company’s Duty to Open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

Upon being furnished with satisfactory proof of death of:

  • a sole safe deposit box renter, or
  • the last surviving co-renter of a safe deposit box,

an employee of the Safe Deposit Box Company shall:

  • open the safe deposit box, and
  • examine its contents,

in the presence of an individual who appears in person, and furnishes an affidavit stating:

  1. that such individual believes that the safe deposit box may contain:
  1. that the individual is an Interested Person – as defined in the applicable Minnesota statutes – and wishes to open the safe deposit box for any one or more of the following purposes:
  • to conduct a search for the decedent’s Last Will and Testament;
  • 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 Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company may not open a safe deposit box pursuant to the above identified procedure if it has received:

  • a copy of letters of authority from the Personal Representative of the deceased safe deposit box renter’s estate, or
  • other applicable court order.

Not Required to Open a Minnesota Safe Deposit Box

The Minnesota Safe Deposit Box Company need not open the safe deposit box if:

(1)       the safe deposit box has previously been opened for a similar purpose;

(2)       the 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; or

(3)       the safe deposit box renter’s key or combination is not available, or has been lost.

Minnesota Interested Persons

For purposes of the above procedures, in Minnesota the term “Interested Person” means any of the following with respect to a Minnesota safe deposit box:

(1)       a person named as the Personal Representative in a purported Last Will and Testament of the safe deposit box renter;

(2)       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 Safe Deposit Box Company before death;

(3)       the surviving spouse of the safe deposit box renter;

(4)       a devisee of the safe deposit box renter; or

(5)       an heir of the safe deposit box renter;

Minnesota Will Searches

If a Minnesota safe deposit box is opened for the purpose of conducting a search for the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, the Safe Deposit Box Company shall:

  • remove any document that appears to be the decedent’s Last Will and Testament,
  • make a true and correct copy thereof,
  • replace the copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament in the safe deposit box, and
  • deliver the original of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament 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 Box Company, or
  • if not known, the county in which the safe deposit box is located.

The decedent’s Last Will and Testament must be either personally delivered, or sent to the appropriate Minnesota probate court by U.S. registered mail.

Minnesota 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 safe deposit box renter:

  • may be copied by the Safe Deposit Box Company, and
  • the copy or copies thereof delivered to the Interested Person.

Document Retrieval: Body, Funeral, or Burial Arrangements

If the 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 box and delivered to the Interested Person,
  • providing that a true and correct copy of such document is retained in the safe deposit box.

Document Retrieval – Will

If the Safe Deposit Box Company discovers a document in the safe deposit box that appears to be the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, the Safe Deposit Box Company shall deliver the original Last Will and Testament 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.

Inventory of the Content of Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes

If Minnesota safe deposit boxes are opened for the purpose of obtaining an Inventory of the contents of the boxes, the Safe Deposit Box Company shall make, or cause to be made, an Inventory of the contents of the safe deposit boxes, to which both:

  • an employee of the 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.

Delivery of Inventory to the Court

Within ten days of opening a Minnesota safe deposit box pursuant to the above identified procedures, the 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 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.

Copy of the Inventory to the Interested Party

The Interested Person requesting the Inventory may demand that the Safe Deposit Box Company:

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

Empty Safe Deposit Box

If a safe deposit box which was opened for the purpose of conducting an Inventory, Will search, or burial document search is completely empty, the Safe Deposit Box Company will complete an Inventory of the safe deposit box contents – identifying that the safe deposit box was found to be empty.

Such an Inventory document must be signed by both:

  • an employee for the Safe Deposit Box Company, and
  • the Interested Person.

If an Interested Person so requests, the 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 Safe Deposit Box Company in order to surrender the empty safe deposit box.

Subsequent Inquiries to the Bank or Safe Deposit Box Company

If any other Interested Person under Minnesota law inquires about the status of the safe deposit box after it has been surrendered, the Safe Deposit Box Company may state:

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

Limited Liability of the Bank or Safe Deposit Box Company

The Safe Deposit Box Company need not ascertain the truth of any statement made in any Affidavit required to be furnished to the Safe Deposit Box Company, and:

  • when acting in reliance upon any such Affidavit,
  • the Safe Deposit Box Company will be discharged as if it had dealt with the Personal Representative of the estate of the safe deposit box

The 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 safe deposit box, nor
  • for conversion of the property in connection with actions performed under this subdivision,

other than for conversion by intentional acts of the Safe Deposit Box Company or its employees, directors, officers, or agents.

Discretion of the Safe Deposit Box Company

If a Safe Deposit Box Company is not satisfied that the Minnesota statutory requirements regarding access to safe deposit box by successors have been met, it may decline to open a safe deposit box.

No Removal of Property from a Safe Deposit Box

No contents of Minnesota safe deposit boxes – other than:

  • the decedent renter’s Last Will and Testament, or
  • a document required to facilitate the decedent 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 an Affidavit of Collection prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Minnesota probate code.

Affidavits of Collection

Sometimes, the appointment of a Minnesota Personal Representative is not 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 Personal Representative.

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

(a)     Thirty days after the death of a decedent, . . . any safe deposit company, as defined in section 55.01, controlling the right of access to decedent’s safe deposit box shall . . .  deliver the tangible personal property or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock, or chose in action or deliver the entire contents of the safe deposit box to a person claiming to be the successor of the decedent, or a state or county agency with a claim authorized by section 256B.15, upon being presented a certified death record of the decedent and an affidavit made by or on behalf of the successor stating that:

(1)     the value of the entire probate estate, determined as of the date of death, wherever located, including the contents of a safe deposit box, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed $75,000;

(2)     30 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent or, in the event the property to be delivered is the contents of a safe deposit box, 30 days have elapsed since the filing of an inventory of the contents of the box pursuant to section 55.10, paragraph (h);

(3)     no application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction;

(4)     if presented, by a state or county agency with a claim authorized by section 256B.15, to a financial institution with a multiple-party account in which the decedent had an interest at the time of death, the amount of the affiant’s claim and a good faith estimate of the extent to which the decedent was the source of funds or beneficial owner of the account; and

(5)     the claiming successor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property. . . .

(e)     The person controlling access to decedent’s safe deposit box need not open the box or deliver the contents of the box if:

(1)     the person has received notice of a written or oral objection from any person or has reason to believe that there would be an objection; or

(2)     the lessee’s key or combination is not available.

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 with respect to Minnesota safe deposit boxes.

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).

Ownership of the Contents of Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes

An Interested Person’s exclusive access to one or more Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes does not conclusively prove ownership of the contents of such Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes by the 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.

Any safe deposit box rental agreement generally only addresses the Safe 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 safe deposit box pursuant to an Affidavit of Collection:

  • the probate code statutory provisions – which requires a 30 day waiting period since the date-of-death, or a 30 day waiting period since the filing of an Inventory of the contents of the Safe Deposit Box; and
  • the Safe Deposit Box Company statutory provisions – which provide that the entire contents of a safe deposit box may be removed by a successor upon presentation of a statutory Affidavit of Collection to the Safe Deposit Box Company.

Conclusion – Minnesota Safe Deposit Boxes

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 Minnesota safe deposit boxes.

For Minnesota Cemetery law issues see http://dahlelawcemeteries.com/

For information on Minnesota Church Corporation law, see also Minnesota Church Law.

For information on Minnesota Transfer on Death Deeds, see also http://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/minnesota-transfer-death-deed/

For information on Minnesota Real Estate Law, see also http://www.dahlelawminnesota.com/minnesota-title-evidence-ownership/

For information on Minnesota Guardianships, see also http://dahlelawguardianships.com/

Gary C. Dahle is also licensed in North Dakota.

For information on North Dakota Probate law, see http://www.dahlelawnorthdakota.com/

For information on North Dakota Transfer on Death Deeds also, see http://northdakotatransferondeathdeeds.com/

Copyright 2017 – All Rights Reserved

Gary C. Dahle – Attorney at Law

2704 Mounds View Blvd., Mounds View, MN 55112

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

gary@dahlelaw.com

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Legal Disclaimer

Information provided herein is only for general informational and educational purposes. Minnesota laws addressing access to safe deposit boxes involve many complex legal issues. If you have a specific legal problem about which you are seeking advice,  consult with a Minnesota attorney of your choice.

Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, is licensed to practice law only in the State of Minnesota, in the United States of America. Therefore, only those persons interested in matters governed by the laws of the State of Minnesota should consult with, or provide information to, Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, or take note of information provided herein.

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However, the mere act of either providing information to Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, or taking note of information provided on https://dahlelawprobate.com, does not constitute legal advice, or establish an attorney/client relationship.

Nothing herein will be deemed to be the practice of law or the provision of legal advice. Clients are accepted by Gary C. Dahle, Attorney at Law, only after preliminary personal communications with him, and subject to mutual agreement on terms of representation.

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Links to Minnesota Probate Records

Minnesota Department of Health – Death Records Index – 1997 to Present:  http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/DecdIndex/dthSearch.cfm

Minnesota Historical Society – Death Records; 1904 – 2001: http://www.mnhs.org/people/deathrecords

Minnesota Department of Health – Birth Certificateshttp://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/birth.html

Minnesota Historical Society – Birth Records: http://www.mnhs.org/people/birthrecords

Minnesota Marriage Recordshttps://moms.mn.gov/