Florida Probate Statute 733.6065: Opening Safe-Deposit Box
Probate administration is the process supervised by the Florida circuit court during which a decedent’s estate is settled and distributed. There are multiple steps involved in the administration of an estate, including the appointment of a personal representative who is responsible for the day-to-day activities of managing the estate. One important step that the personal representative must complete is the inventorying of the decedent’s property. This step involves collecting and appraising all property that is part of the probate estate including the contents of safe deposit boxes. To learn more about inventorying estate assets, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.6065- Opening safe-deposit box, contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale estate administration lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who understands the legal requirements of completing an estate inventory.Inventorying Estate Property
The probate estate inventory process involves the truthful and accurate listing of the entirety of the deceased person’s belongings. This can include:
- Real estate such as homes, condos, and vacation property
- Personal property such as furniture, electronics, clothing, major appliances, and tools.
- Valuables such as heirlooms, jewelry, and artwork
- Vehicles such as cars, boats, and ATVs
- Financial property such as bank accounts and investment accounts
The purpose of the inventorying stage is to determine which assets the person owned. Thus, in addition to making a list of property in the decedent’s probate estate, the personal representative must also determine the value of the assets as of the date of the decedent’s death. As an experienced Fort Lauderdale estate administration attorney will explain, unless an inventory has been previously filed, the personal representative must file an inventory of the estate within 60 days after issuance of letters of administration. However, the personal representative has the right to petition the court for an extension.Opening Safe-Deposit Box
Some of a decedent’s assets may be in a safe-deposit box. Items that are often stored in a safe-deposit include:
- Stock certificates
- Bearer bonds
- Bank and savings and loan passbooks
- Coins and stamps
- Deeds and mortgages
- Motor vehicle titles
- Promissory notes
- Wills and trust documents
Under Florida Statutes, section 733.6065- Opening safe-deposit box there are specific rules related to accessing the safe deposit.
- Initial opening of a safe-deposit box. If the safe-deposit box is leased or co-leased by a decedent, it must be opened in the presence of any two of the following- 1). an employee of the institution where the box is located; 2). the decedent’s personal representative; or 3). the personal representative’s attorney.
- Verifying the contents of the box. Each person who is present at the initial opening of the safe-deposit box must verify the contents by signing a copy of the inventory.
- Filing safe-deposit box inventory. The personal representative is required to file the safe-deposit box inventory with the probate court within 10 days after the box is opened.
In addition, the personal representative is required to serve a copy of the inventory on the surviving spouse, each legal heir in an intestate estate, each residuary beneficiary in a testate estate, and any other interested person who may request it in writing such as a creditor.Delivery of Contents of Safe-Deposit Box
The bank or other institution holding a safe-deposit box leased by a decedent must deliver the contents of the safe-deposit box to the personal representative after the he (or she) presents a certified copy of his letters of administration.Significance of Inventory
Inventorying the decedent’s estate is very important for the administration process. The personal representative and the court must know the value of the decedent’s estate as of the date of the decedent’s death in order to know how much is in the estate for paying debts and distribution to beneficiaries or heirs. If there are not enough assets in the estate to pay all debts, expenses, and claims, the personal representative must pay debts based on a statutory order of payment of expenses and obligations. For example, fees associated with the costs of administration are the top priority, funeral expenses are next, followed by debt and taxes with preference under federal law.
Also, as an estate administration attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, the personal representative’s commission is based on the value of the estate at the date of the decedent’s death, plus any income added over the course of administration. The Florida Probate Code provides that personal representative fees are to be based on a statutory schedule based on the value of estate assets as follows:
- 3% of the first $1 million
- 5% for any amount over $1 million and up to $5 million
- 2% for any amount over $5 million and up to $10 million
- 5% for any amount above $10 million
- Delivery of safe-deposit box contents or property held in safekeeping to personal representative: § 655.936, Fla. Stat.
- Inventories and accountings; public records exemptions: § 733.604, Fla. Stat.
- Possession of estate: § 733.607, Fla. Stat.
- Subject to the provisions of s. 655.936(2), the initial opening of a safe-deposit box that is leased or coleased by the decedent shall be conducted in the presence of any two of the following persons: an employee of the institution where the box is located, the personal representative, or the personal representative’s attorney of record. Each person who is present must verify the contents of the box by signing a copy of the inventory under penalties of perjury. The personal representative shall file the safe-deposit box inventory, together with a copy of the box entry record from a date which is 6 months prior to the date of death to the date of inventory, with the court within 10 days after the box is opened. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, this inventory and the attached box entry record is subject to inspection only by persons entitled to inspect an inventory under s. 733.604(1). The personal representative may remove the contents of the box.
- The right to open and examine the contents of a safe-deposit box leased by a decedent, or any documents delivered by a decedent for safekeeping, and to receive items as provided for in s. 655.935 is separate from the rights provided for in subsection (1)
The estate administration attorneys serving Fort Lauderdale at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing personal representatives, beneficiaries, heirs, and other parties in matters related to the administration of testate and intestate estates, estate disputes and litigation, and other estate matters. The process of inventorying the assets in an estate can be a major, complicated project, especially if there is a significant amount of property involved. If you have questions related to inventorying an estate, including the requirements of Florida Probate Code, section 733.6065- Opening safe-deposit box, we can help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.