Most people are keyed into the fact that if you own property, it needs to be placed in a trust but here is a quick overview as to the benefits. For one, without a trust your heirs will have the nightmare of probate hanging over their head for months, and most likely a year or more. The number of courts handling probates has decreased due to budget cuts, which has increased the number of months to a court decree. Second, not having a trust would most certainly require retaining a lawyer to help guide them through the process, therefore it is costly. If your finances are not too complicated, I can refer you to a few local attorneys who put together excellent trust packages. The cost is not as prohibitive as you would think and generally can be done for under $1,000.
Looking at the tax records as frequently as I do, it seems most people have embraced the need for a trust. But what many are not aware of is the problems that can happen after death with safety deposit boxes. There is a crazy patchwork of rules when it comes to safety deposit boxes and also a wide range of opinions from bankers and lawyers. Between the Federal guidelines, State guidelines and individual bank rules, it is anyone’s guess how access will be handled after the owner’s death.
Some experts advise to keep your important documents such as a will and trust in a safety deposit boxes, but others say absolutely not. I guess this a personal decision but if you do decide to put anything of importance or value in a safety deposit box, you absolutely must make your heirs joint owners of the box. Also it is a good idea to ask to see the banks rules and regulations concerning the safety deposit box.
A client of mine was not able to access his father’s safety deposit box, even though his mom was still alive, for nearly a year after his father’s passing. They needed important documents to help his mother sell her property and move closer to the family. So take this advice to heart and put your family members on “title” of the safety box, if you will. You owe it to your loved ones to make what will be a difficult time emotional, just a bit less stressful.