Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Happens to Your Preps When You Die?

I came across this post over on reddit yesterday and it got me to thinking.  While it is all fine and dandy to be prepped to the gills when we are on this mortal coil, it is quite a different thing to unexpectedly die and leave your heir a pile of stuff that makes the mind boggle.  For those of you who didn't read the thread, a man died and left his son, his sole heir, $10 million+ in property, a virtual arsenal of guns, pounds and pounds of precious metals, and a boatload of cash (some possibly illegally acquired--both the guns and the money).  He also made the son promise not to get rid of any of this stuff (?!?).

One would think a sudden, huge windfall would be a good thing but when the legal questions start flying it looks like it can be--according to the man who posted the question--quite the mire to get himself out of.  And then there is the deathbed promise which makes the situation even more complicated.

So what should happen to your preps, whether you die at a ripe old age or die suddenly and unexpectedly?  This not being legal advice, I would have to recommend you discuss such things with an estate planner.  On the other hand, here is my plan:

  • I have an updated Will, Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney, and a "when I die" document directing the basics for when I die.
  • I have life insurance and savings (in the bank and at home) to cover both immediate and longer term needs for the spouse.  Things like funeral planning, acquiring documents, disposition of my body, paying the next few months of household bills, etc. all require money immediately until the life insurance can pay out, investments can be liquidated, etc.
  • I don't stockpile nearly as much food and supplies as we used to when we had a houseful of kids.
  • We have no debt and the house and vehicles are paid off so the only monthly bills the spouse would need to pay when I die are utilities, etc.  If we both die at the same time, the paid off assets would become part of the estate to disburse.
  • I have gone from stockpiling stuff to meet every possible need--from day-to-day situations to a TEOTWAWKI situation--to minimalism.
  • At this point in my life (I'm old) I am happy to give away many of my possessions on a regular basis.  Get a new tablet?  My current tablet goes to a kid or grandkid.  Get a new cell phone?  Ditto.  People come to visit?  Here take this home with you.  Basically I don't need a lot of stuff and I would rather give things to people now, while I am alive, than hoard 50 years worth of crap that the kids would have to sort through after I'm gone (been there, done that with several parents and elderly relatives; it's an odious job).
  • If you are a young person with a family, your current preps would be different.  You would be in the acquisition phase (acquiring sufficient firearms for your needs, stockpiling a larger amount of food for an emergency situation, buying tools, etc).  However you should still plan for your untimely demise with appropriate life insurance, legal documents, savings, etc.  
  • The idea is to protect your loved ones no matter your age.  It becomes easier as you get older and once all of the kids are settled into careers, have bought houses, are raising their own kids...well, when that happens it's a very good feeling.  As the kids are settled and have their own lives well set, any inheritance they gain from us would be a nice bonus, we don't want it to be a burden.  We also have good relationships with all of the kids and grandkids and have discussed in broad terms what would happen if I (or we) were to die, namely the spouse would have the option to live alone or with one of the kids and that yes, they will get some things (money and hard assets) from us either given to them occasionally while we live or spelled out in our Wills. 
  • I still have sufficient firearms for our protection needs, we still have enough food to see us through months of not being able to go to a grocery store, we downsized to a manageable yard instead of acreage, and we are easily able to come and go from this country (a concern in these tumultuous times).  Yes we are spending some of the kids inheritance (travel, new tech, etc) but to my very non-dynastic way of thinking, our responsibility was to raise the kids in a way that teaches them to stand on their own two feet, give them nice gifts on occasion, help out in emergencies, encourage them to help out each other (which is even more important), and feel responsible enough to help out their parents in their old age.  Leaving them a small nest egg to help them have a more comfortable middle age/retirement is our goal, lording their potential inheritance over them is not.  Creating strife by playing favorites, not being clear about who gets what when we are gone and letting them fight it out in court, or having them count down the days until they make bank from our demise is not something we want to leave as our legacy either.
  • Finally, don't rely on "I told my son I wanted this to happen after I die" or "I'm sure the kids will get together and happily divide up our assets after we are gone".  Everything needs to be spelled out in writing (in a valid legal document), with a trustworthy executor appointed (preferably someone who does not stand to gain from your death).   Leaving a volume of explicit instructions is also a good idea: user names and passwords for all of your accounts, a clear list of investments/banking and other accounts, and directions to find your important documents (deeds and titles, insurance documents, etc).

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