Unclaimed Safe Deposit Boxes
Safe deposit boxes are really part of a safe custody service offered by some banks. Under this, customers pay an annual fee to a bank in order to be able to store a box of valuables safely in the bank’s strong room.
There are no limits as to what they can store in the box, and the customer has access to it whenever the bank is open. The customer doesn’t have to give the bank a key to the box or even tell them what he has stored there. He’s free to add or remove items from the box as and when he chooses.
Unclaimed Safe Deposit BoxesBecause it’s a service that’s billed annually (generally deducted directly from the account rather than a separate billing), the safe deposit box stands out a little. However, it’s still perfectly possible for the account and box to become unclaimed, although about the only instance in which it might be likely to happen would be if the account holder were to die without a will and there were ample money in the account to keep things ticking over.
The banks should keep records of each time the customer comes to open the box, although a branch might not keep close track of the box – certainly not close enough to raise suspicions if a customer didn’t appear for a year or more. As long as the fees were paid, all would seem in order.
Claiming a BoxClaiming a safe deposit box can be far trickier than an unclaimed bank account. You’d be looking into the account of someone else, most likely someone deceased who couldn’t provide any information to help you. Unless you saw receipts of payment for use of a bank’s safe custody service, you wouldn’t even know the person had a box. After all, how do you prove something doesn’t exist?
However, if you do find evidence of payment for a box, ideally you’d need to also find the key to the box. Once again, that might not be easy – how do you select one from what might be many keys?
But if you can discover which branch of the bank holds the box, and you have papers to prove you’re the legal heir or executor of the estate, you should be able to gain access to the box. Remember, though, that the bank itself might not have a key to open it.
What’s In The Box?What are you likely to find? That, of course, is the big question, and until you open it you’ll have no idea. The bank will have no record of what’s in there, meaning it could be a feast of plenty or next to nothing. Items could have been taken from the box (if anyone else could get into it) and you’ll never know.
You might expect certain things to be there – a house deed, for instance – but in truth you really won’t have any idea what you’ll find. Think of it as opening a treasure box if it happens to you!
Realistically, you’ll be unlikely to encounter the situation, since very few people in the UK use this kind of bank service.