Landlord could keep belongings if renter dies

DENVER -- Whether you rent an apartment or a storage unit, legal experts say it is important to maintain a will or other legal arrangements outlining what will happen to your belongings should anything happen to you.

By law, landlords are not allowed to hand any belongings of a deceased person over to any person without proper legal documentation.

The grieving family of Michael Walsh said they are unable to retrieve his belongings from his Capitol Hill apartment.

His mother Arlene had traveled from California to settle her son's affairs at great expense, only to learn she had no legal right to his belongings since he was older than 18 and had no will.

"(This is) so cold, towards a mother that just lost her son just asking for his belongings, I'm not asking for the building," she said.

Attorney Eric. L. Nesbitt said everyone should maintain a will, but renters can also designate who will be able to enter their apartment in their rental agreement.

"Leases will have references to who to contact in the case of an emergency so you can bring that in or reference the lease so that the landlord knows they're dealing with someone who has the authority to act on behalf of the deceased person," he said.

Nesbitt said another option for family members with a lost loved one who did not have a will is a small estate affidavit.

Family members can file the document to retrieve belongings if they are valued at less than $66,000.

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