Unclaimed Asset Search:
Trace and Claim a Missing Safe Deposit Box

Find a lost safe deposit box owed a deceased family member   Due to confidentiality concerns, both on the part of owners and the institutions where the boxes are located, this asset type can be difficult to trace.

The contents of safe deposit boxes with expired leases comes under the purview of state unclaimed property statutes. Dormancy periods - the time during which there has been no box entry or rental payment - vary by state, but typically range from 1-5 years.

Dormant boxes are drilled and the contents remitted to government custodians in the state of the owner's last known residence. In the event there is no address on record, the contents go to the state in which the bank or depository is located.

Because most trustees auction off the contents of escheated boxes one to three years after receipt, prompt action is advised. Although the cash received from the sale may always be available for claim, items of personal significance may be lost forever.

Abandoned Funds and Unclaimed Property Search

Click on binoculars to search for a lost safe deposit box

Abandoned boxes at closed banks & credit unions  Note in cases where a bank or credit union is closed by the FDIC or NCUA, you have a limited time within which to reclaim your box contents.

Safe deposit box contents are not covered by FDIC or NCUA insurance, and the rental agreements at most banks stipulate the bank or credit union assumes no liability for loss. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, at least 250 bank vaults went underwater, submerging 8,000 safe deposit boxes. Thousands more were damaged when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in October, 2012.

► Lost safe deposit box search   The American Safe Deposit Association used to assist in the identification of abandoned boxes through its publication of Access magazine, but this is no longer the case. 

Some states have safe deposit associations and most have banker trade groups which may be able to help. To find these search ‘safe deposit organization’ or ‘bankers association’ for your particular state.

Go through bank statements and other financial records, including tax returns, to determine where these might be. Safe deposit box rental payments are often tax deductible, so they may appear on the decedent's income tax returns.

If you know where the box was located  If you know or are able to determine the name of the bank where the box was held, but the branch has since closed, it is possible the contents were transferred to a successor institution.

To search bank name changes go to: http://research.fdic.gov/bankfind/
To search credit union name changes go to:  http://researchcu.ncua.gov/Views/FindCreditUnions.aspx
For additional information and assistance on closed banks go to:  www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/banklist.html
To search closed credit unions go to:  www.ncua.gov/Legal/Regs/Pages/Closed2012.aspx

If you don't know where the box was located  Check with all banks or credit unions where the deceased maintained any type of account. Often safe deposit boxes are given free or at a reduced rate to customers. If unsuccessful, initiate an search of the appropriate state unclaimed property property office at: www.unclaimed.com  Because dormant boxes are drilled and the contents sold relatively quickly at auction, it is imperative to check regularly.