Sportsmen estate planning: accepting the inevitable

It’s been a tough summer in terms of losing friends and family. We in New York’s outdoor writing (and reading) community continue to mourn the losses of our friends and colleagues Will Elliott and Ron Kolodziej, who both recently passed.

And the passings of a family member as well as the friend of a friend have taught me a lesson or two about mortality, and what we outdoorsmen may wish to be our prized possessions. In our case, those possessions often include guns and other cherished items.

Earlier this summer, one of my hunting buddies got in touch with me asking for some help. His brother-in-law had passed away and had a cellar full of guns and outdoor gear. In this case it was left to his only son. The son wanted nothing to do with it, especially the guns, and they needed help finding a home for them.

I’m no expert, but I did the best I could thanks to the loaning of a Kelly Blue Book of Gun Values from a local gunsmith/friend. The end result: Most of the firearms were sold to a collector and a local gun shop at fair prices. The gear is still being sorted through and will likely end up at a consignment shop or in a garage sale. I was glad to be able help them figure this out, but it’s been a lot of work for them.

Someone in my wife’s family wasn’t so lucky. After the passing of the family patriarch, who had everything in his name, and no will, the family was left to sort through all sorts of property. Those survivors include his wife and a number of his children, which are her step-children. All of this could’ve been avoided with some simple planning. However, I know this is not easy when dealing with an illness.

I remember the day my father found out that his cancer was terminal. That night at the dinner table, he broke down when telling me to make sure his deer rifle went to his oldest son’s oldest son – my nephew. My father would pass in a little more than a week as his condition deteriorated quickly.

We have a large family that, during that time, visited constantly to pay their final respects. As nice as that was, I got very little personal time with him in those final days. However, before he began to slip, I made sure he knew that I would take care of that request, as it was important to him. And I did.

Twenty-four years later I’m still grateful he made such a decision, and communicated it to me. Otherwise, the obvious discussion would’ve taken place among the men in my family as to what should become of dad’s deer rifle. We’ve always gotten along, but who needs that kind of issue at such a trying time?

My wife and I have no children, and should something happen to one of us, the other would take over. But we both have big hobbies, mine being the outdoors, and we now realize it will be much simpler for the other if we document our wishes for our dearest possessions ahead of time. We think we’d be doing a big favor for ourselves and those we leave behind.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Dan Ladd

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