1. How to get access to the deceased's safe deposit box in a bank?
Applying for a "Certificate for Inspection"
With effect from 1st April 2007, the Secretary for Home Affairs has delegated his power as regards access, inspection and inventory taking of a deceased person' safe deposit box to the Director of Home Affairs.
Either the executor under the Will, the intended administrator having priority to take out a Grant of Letters of Administration, or a surviving renter of the safe deposit box will need to apply for a "Certificate for Necessity of Inspection of Bank Deposit Box" (certificate for inspection) from the Home Affairs Department. For more information regarding the application procedure, please refer to the website of the Home Affairs Department.
On issue of the certificate of inspection, the holder of the certificate for inspection ("the Holder") will need to make an appointment with the Secretary for Home Affairs for the inspection of the deceased's safe deposit box. Such inspection must be carried out in the presence of a bank staff member and two public officers authorized by the Secretary for Home Affairs.
If the safe deposit box is rented jointly with another renter, the surviving renter (if he/she is not the Holder) will need to be present at the inspection. If a Will is found, the Holder (if he/she is the named executor) can take the Will away after making a copy of the same and placing the copy in the safe deposit box.
The inventory will be prepared by the Holder, with assistance from the public officers whenever necessary. The inventory will be verified by the public officers present at the inspection, and a copy of the inventory will be kept by the bank concerned and the Secretary for Home Affairs for a period of six years. The original inventory will be kept by the Holder.
If a Will is found in the safe deposit box and: i) the Holder is not the executor named in the Will, or ii) there is no executor appointed in the Will and the Holder is not the surviving renter, the Holder is not permitted to remove the Will or prepare the inventory. The safe box will then be closed or sealed immediately by the bank staff after a copy of the Will is made and handed over to the public officers present. The copy of the Will will be kept by the Secretary for Home Affairs for six years.