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What not to store in your safe-deposit box

If you rent the box only in your name, you, a power-of-attorney or agent you designate are the only ones who can get into the locked box, Stevenson says.

A safe-deposit box rented jointly with a spouse, child or friend means those people also have access.

Experts say it's wise to have a designated power of attorney to handle your financial affairs -- including access to your box -- in case you are unable to because you are disabled or traveling, among other reasons.

"If you have a power of attorney, getting into your safe-deposit box won't be a problem," Stanganelli says.

Regent Bank keeps a master key for the boxes in its South Florida branches and the customer has a key. However, the bank doesn't open the boxes without the customer present, Spiro says.

Who can access my bank safe-deposit box when I die?

Anyone who is a co-renter of the box has immediate access to it upon your death.

But what if you are the sole renter of the box? People often are confused about who can gain entry to the box. Many wrongly believe a power of attorney has access to the box after you die.

However, a power of attorney loses authority to act on your behalf upon your death, Stevenson says.

An executor or executrix that you designated to handle your estate after you die would get access to your safe-deposit box, but how quickly depends on the state you live in and the bank, Stanganelli says.

It's possible to speed that process in certain states by having a "temporary executor clause" in a will, he says. In such instances, the executor can obtain a court order quickly after your death to access the box while your estate is going through probate.

If you legally appoint a trustee to oversee assets placed in trust before you die, that individual also would have access to the safe-deposit box upon your death.

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