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Jan 01, 2019

Inheriting a Deceased Relative’s Storage Unit

The passing of a family member can be a very hard time. The last thing that you want to do is to go through their personal belongings but it will eventually have to get done. Dealing with the legality of a storage unit that once belonged to a family member or close friend can be tricky, so it is best to plan ahead for such events if possible.

After a person passes on, a storage unit does not automatically belong to the family members. According to the law, their property still belongs to them. Many times people don’t realize that their loved one had a storage unit until the unpaid bills start rolling in. The easiest and most obvious solution is to have access to the storage unit beforehand. Either you were trusted with the code or it was left with their will. If you are able to easily access their unit, chances are the storage unit won’t even notice that you have moved out their stuff until you close their account.

But let’s say that you just found out about the storage unit and are at a loss how to get into it and who to turn to. Don’t rush down to the unit and try and convince the managers to let you in, because chances are they are not going to let you in without the proper paperwork. You need to have a letter of administration from the county probate that says that you have legal access to the unit. You may even want to bring a copy of the death certificate, but just a death certificate alone is not enough for them to hand over the keys to the unit. You can even be listed on the unit as someone who is allowed access but they are not legally required to give the code if you don’t know it.

If there was no will left, your best course of action is to talk to a lawyer. It will help to have someone mediate between family members and the storage unit to decide who gets the items inside and how to best proceed. A lawyer can draw up an estate affidavit that you can bring to the storage unit. The most important part of this process is to remember to pay for the unit so the items inside don’t default and get sold off to auction while you are waiting for legal action to take place. Most units will wait 30-90 days after a defaulted loan to send it to auction, but some places are even faster. The storage unit is required to notify you before this happens, but if you are not listed as a contact, it might be harder to know what is happening.

When a loved one dies, it can be a very chaotic and emotional time. Personal items tend to have sentimental value, so going through their home and deciding what to do with it can be very stressful, let alone going through a storage unit. If you can, be proactive and talk with your family members about their living situations and belongings now. But if their time has passed, there are options for you so you can still get into the unit. Talk to a lawyer and the storage unit managers so they can walk you through the next steps to take.

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