The only way to have an executor for an estate appointed is through the probate process with the court. You can do this with or without a will. Unfortunately, unless a probate is opened there is no authorized executor. Sometimes opening a probate is not worth the expense based on the circumstances of the estate. If the estate is insolvent, it may not make sense here. It probably depends on what is in the storage unti and how imperative it is to retrieve the contents.
I'm sorry to say that you have a very difficult situation and the only legal answers I can see cost. Money. Do you have any idea if there are things of any value in the storage units? Perhaps the items are of more sentimental value than monetary.
Nonetheless, there are really only two options that I can see as you are unable to use a small estate affidavit because you cannot declare that the creditors are taken care of.
Either intestate administration to start with, or getting a special administrator appointed under RCW 11.32. Both require filing fees; both have costs attendant to them.
If you are not sure whether anything in the units has value, you could get appointed as special administrator (or have a professional appointed) who would then be authorized to take possession of the contents of the units. Again, the problem is cost. An individual seeking to be appointed special administrator has to post a bond. If you hire a professional, no bond, but you must pay them. The other issue in special administration is you wind up (most likely) with intestate insolvent estate administration anyway because the special administrator needs to turn the property over to a personal representative.
Frankly, if you think the only things in the storage units are used furniture and out-of-season clothing, you may want to let go and the storage place will eventually sell everything. If you are not otherwise obligated on the decedent's debt, you have no responsibility to pay his/her bills. If you want to move forward, my belief is that you will have to fork over some money up front with no guaranty of ever getting anything back. Of course, you'd be paid back before the creditors, but if there's no value...
Full disclosure on my part: I've never had to use RCW 11.32, so perhaps others who have used it have more practical advice than I.
I agree with the thoughtful advice of my colleagues. A special administrator might be a good way to go if you are willing to pay for the filing fees. One thing you might try is contacting the Clark County Bar Association to see if they help people with paperwork while representing themselves.
If all else fails, and there is nothing valuable in them, you might just let the storage company sell whatever is inside the storage units.
All the best!
This posting is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. For more information, please visit www.justinelderlaw.com.