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Closing a Safe Deposit Box by Mail

Question: 
Our procedures currently allow customers to close their safe deposit box by mail if they sign and have notarized an affidavit we provide. Our procedures state the box must be opened by two bank employees and an outside Notary who will attest to the contents. If the customer states on the affidavit that the box is empty should we still require the outside Notary to witness the opening? We have a hold harmless clause in the affidavit that states the following: "In consideration of the Bank’s accommodation to me as requested, I hereby release, discharge and agree to indemnify and hold XYZ BANK harmless from any and all responsibility of liability, claims and causes of action under and pursuant to this instrument, or in any way relating to the contents of said Safe Deposit Box."
Answer: 

by Ken Golliher:

Every safe deposit procedure is designed to protect the custodian from claims of "mysterious disappearance" of the renter's property. Each individual procedure reflects a subjective judgment as to its incremental value.

I think your procedure is good, but there is no implication that an "outside" notary is more credible than an "inside" notary. Unless there is something odd about the function in your state, all are titular state officials of equal rank. If I were the notary, I would demand that the language indicate that I was notarizing signatures, not serving as an extra witness to the fact that the box was empty.

Answer: 

by John Burnett:

As to eliminating the notary when the renter has completed the affidavit to indicate the box is empty, I advise against it. Even an honest customer can make a mistake, and you want to mitigate the risk that the renter later remembers Aunt Flo's 10-carat diamond pendant was left behind. Use an in-house notary (and as Ken suggests, use the notary only to notarize bank officers' signatures), and include a simple check box on the officers' affidavit that the box was, indeed, empty.

First published on 06/17/2018

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