Thinking about the Unthinkable: What Happens to Belongings in Storage If You Pass Away?

If you need to put most of your belongings in storage facilities for a while, take into account the possessions you would never want to risk winding up at a storage unit auction. Even if you can't imagine missing a rental payment, there are worst-case scenarios to consider. Although it's unpleasant to think about, circumstances such as a fatal accident could put all your belongings at risk of being sold. 

Items to Avoid Putting in Storage If Possible

Personal Photos

Even in today's digital world, many people still have paper photographs they wouldn't want to lose. You might have boxes or albums of photos from a time when film picture taking was the norm. If those haven't been converted to a digital format and nobody has the negatives, they are irreplaceable. 

A Loved One's Ashes

Maybe nobody else has sentimental feelings about your dog's or cat's cremated remains. But if you're thinking of storing a human's ashes in the unit, give that idea some careful reflection before you do so. 

Valuable Jewelry

Somebody in your family might have a sentimental attachment to jewelry that belonged to a deceased relative. In addition, if you own any jewelry that is worth a good deal of money, you might want someone specific to inherit it if something happened to you. 

Sentimental Items

Many other things could qualify as sentimental items to other family members. Grandma's china or silver dinner set are examples.

What You Can Do to Protect These Items 

Find somewhere else to keep your most cherished possessions if possible. A safe deposit box might be an option; even the large ones have reasonable annual rental fees. Another possibility would be to leave the belongings with a trusted friend or relative.

If you feel you must put all or some of these things in storage, make sure somebody who would want them knows they are there. If it's someone you trust completely, give that person a padlock key or access code.

If you haven't yet made up a will, you can type and print a brief document specifying who should inherit the storage unit belongings. Have the document notarized at a financial institution or law office. Otherwise, a judge may make the decision about your storage unit for you. 

Your storage unit lease may give you the option of listing an emergency contact as well as a specific person the facility can provide access to if something happens to you. This individual will likely need to provide a death certificate and a copy of your will or notarized document to prove they have the right to pick up your possessions.