By Julie Casella, Certified Self Storage Manager
It’s always stressful and taxing when a loved one passes away. And if you are unsure what to do to re-gain possession of their items from their storage unit, it can add to the stress you are already experiencing. Having the right legal documents will help ease the stress. In the self storage industry, most companies require one particular legal document to gain access to a tenant’s storage unit after they have passed away.
The laws in many states require storage units to be immediately overlocked when the storage property manager is notified of a tenant’s death. Moove In Self Storage follows this process and overlocks the storage unit to ensure that only proper person is collecting items from that unit. To gain access to an overlocked unit, we require, by state law where we operate, a death certificate and Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration for the deceased.
Letters Testamentary/Letters of Administration are commonly referred to as “Short Certificates”. These documents are obtained through the Register of Wills at the County Courthouse where the person resided. The document will name you as the Executor of the estate, and allow you to complete many legal transactions on the behalf of the deceased. Most likely you need this document for many tasks related to insurance policies, bills and property, and typically you get many copies of this to have on hand. Things always pop up that you didn’t know about, so having more than enough of these on hand is a good idea.
Once you obtain these documents, you can stop into the rental office and speak with the property manager about your loved one’s storage unit. He or she will review the documents – the death certificate and short certificate – along with your state issued photo ID. The property manager will record information from the documents for the tenant files. Once we have all the information we need, we will complete a change of ownership for the storage unit, into your name – this must be done in person. You will then be the owner of the storage unit.
At this point, you now have access to the storage unit and the contents. You can keep storing with us, or move the items out. Please note that our rental agreements are month-to-month, so you can take all the time you need. It is important to remember that you are going through a hard time, and trying to rush through something as personal as going through your loved one’s belongings is not going to be easy. You may need to take some time and process your emotions before diving into a project such as this. The items inside the storage unit can bring up memories, both happy and sad, and it will be an emotional process to decide what you want to keep, donate or throw away. It can also take more time that you think to tackle, especially if the storage unit is 10×10 or larger. Make sure you have help when you are ready, and only do small chunks of time so as not to overwhelm yourself.
It is important to remember, while a tenant may have passed, the storage unit is still accruing rental charges. It is imperative to pay the monthly rent to avoid late fees, or the unit going into lien/auction status. Rent is due on the first of every month, and can be paid in person, by mail, over the phone or online through our payment portal. Then, when you are ready and have sorted through and removed everything, you can follow the simple vacate process to end the rental agreement and stop future charges.
If you have any questions about this process and what you need to do to gain access of your loved one’s storage unit after they have passed away, please contact us or reach out to any of our knowledgeable property managers.