A lot of people have storage units. Sometimes those units are only used for a few months, such as during a home remodel or a cross-country move. In other cases, a storage unit is used for years on end. It's these long-term units that often present the biggest problem when someone passes away, but short-term units can also cause issues. What might happen to their unit if they die isn't usually something a person thinks about when they rent a storage unit, but it's an important consideration. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the chances of a probate issue or other problem with the unit. Here's what to consider.
Even if there's a reason you're keeping your storage unit rental quiet, you should still tell at least one person about it. If no one has any idea that you have a storage unit, no one will think to address that if you pass away. The things you have in there may be important to you, and that means they could be important to your family and other loved ones, as well. Whether you tell your spouse, an adult child, a parent, or a trusted friend about your storage unit, let someone know. They should know which facility the unit is located at, and the number of the unit you're renting. They can't access it with that information.
When someone keeps a storage unit quiet, there's usually a good reason for it. Some people are also just very private, and they don't want a lot of people to know what they own or the things they do. That makes perfect sense, but it's also a problem in some cases when that person passes away. If you decide not to tell anyone about your storage unit rental, at least leave a note or letter with your personal belongings, for your family to find after you pass away. That way they will know you have a storage unit, and they can work with the facility to collect your belongings and clean out the unit if you're no longer in need of it.
Another good way to make sure your storage unit can be handled correctly after you pass away is to add another person to the lease. Not all facilities will allow you to do that, so you might want to check around for one that will. Then you can have peace of mind, because you'll know your storage unit will be taken care of in the event of your passing. Of course, you really need to trust the other person on the lease. They will have access to the unit as long as they're on the lease, not just if you pass away. If you don't trust them not to take something out of the unit or use it for something you didn't agree to, don't add them to your lease.
For storage units that don't allow more than one person on the rental lease, giving the entrance code or an extra key to a loved one or trusted friend could be the answer. That way they will be able to access the unit after you pass away, but they aren't a part of the unit's lease, and they aren't responsible for paying the rent on it. Like adding them to the lease, though, they will be able to access the unit at any time because the have the key or the access code. Make sure you choose someone you trust for this, so you can have peace of mind about their opportunity to access anything you have stored in the rental unit.
For many storage unit companies, being notified of a facility tenant's death means locking that unit so others can't access it. That's different if there's another person on the lease, but if you only gave someone else your access code they'll likely be locked out. Storage companies do that to make sure there aren't problems with the will, probate issues, or other concerns. In short, they want to stop someone from showing up and taking everything out of your storage unit once you're deceased. There may be specific things in there you've willed to someone, for example, that shouldn't go to anyone else.
One of the ways you can get around the lock-out issue is by having legal documentation that allows someone to access your storage unit after you die. That's usually a family member, but it can be a friend or an executor of your estate, as well. Proper documentation can vary by state, so it's important to find out what you need and make sure you follow any instructions and legal requirements. That way you won't be worried about what will happen to your things, and you'll know someone you trust will be able to access them at a later date.
Even if your loved ones are going to clear your storage unit quickly after you pass away, that doesn't mean there won't be any money owed. Making the rental payments is vital, or the unit and all its contents could eventually be seized. You can leave money to make the payments if you want, or simply leave instructions that the payments should be made. No matter what you decide with that, though, make sure your family or another trusted person knows your wishes. Here are some useful tips to prevent your loved one's stuff from ending up on Storage Wars.
It's not always comfortable to think about what will happen to our things after we die, but it's important and responsible to make arrangements. By taking some time to make decisions about the things in your storage unit, and how that unit is accessed, you can feel better about what you leave behind.
** This blog post is not intended to offer any legal advice and it is just a general look at the handling of deceased temant's storage units. Please consult legal counsel as laws vary depending on states and situations.
By: Lee Preston
Lee is the Director of Marketing and Promotion for EZstorit.com. When she is not working with our storage facilities partners, she is writing about topics that affect our daily lives.