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How to Die, Legally



You have probably spent time preparing for things like natural disasters, power grid failures, and more. But with all of that work dealing with the here and now, how much thought have you put into your afterlife? Relax, I’m not here to save your soul—that ain’t my department—but once said soul is gone from this plane, your loved ones will have work to do, and they’ll be doing it without you.

I am currently dealing with a death in the family, and fortunately there was a Last Will and a clear direction of what to do with and how to distribute the estate. Not everyone is so lucky. Matters of inheritance can tear families apart. You need to think of these things NOW while there is time, and you’re still here to make your wishes crystal-clear.

My family’s loss got me thinking of my own estate. Over a 20-plus year carrier in the firearms industry, my firearms collection numbers in the NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS range and growing monthly. It’s one thing to have a conversation with a spouse of what your wishes would be, but what happens when you have multiple heirs who intend to lay claim? Here’s how to die, the legal way.

Why you should have a will

  • With a will, you can direct where and to whom your estate (what you own) will go after your death. If you died intestate (without a will), your estate would be distributed according to your state’s law.
  • Wills make the administration of your estate run smoothly. A clear expression of your wishes helps prevent costly, time-consuming disputes over distribution of your assets.
  • Your will is the only way to choose the person to administer your estate and distribute it according to your instructions. If you do not have a will naming an executor, the court will make the choice for you. Usually the court appoints the first person to ask for the post.
  • For larger estates, a well-planned will can help reduce estate taxes.
  • If you have minor children, a will allows you to appoint a guardian should both you and their other parent both pass away.

When you should update your will

  • When you add a child to your family through birth or adoption.
  • If you are considering divorce, or have just gotten a divorce.
  • When your child gets married.
  • When your executor or a beneficiary dies.
  • If you come into a windfall of money or property changes.
  • If you can’t find your original will.

Let’s circle back around to my firearms collection that MAYBE includes a bunch of NFA items like suppressors. What happens to my collection or your collection when we pass? While my wife knows what to do, I am not assuming she understands all the asinine laws and rules if she ever tries to liquidate the collection. These are things that I did to help her navigate the process as easily as possible.

  • Create a complete list of firearms, serial numbers, and approximate values.
  • Create a list of what she is to do with them, transferring to what family, selling, etc.
  • A simple guide of what a suppressor/machine gun is, how to identify and breakdown of the law. I don’t assume she will remember.
  • I have printed off the appropriate forms from the ATF.
  • Form 5 tax free application for transfer for each item.
  • Make sure paperwork is updated since the form can change.
  • Only heirs listed in your will are eligible for the tax free transfer. (See, a will is important; why pay taxes twice on the same items?)

Matter of Trust

This is where we talk about a Trust and what that means and how it goes hand in hand with your will. Think of a will as a legal document that spells out your wishes of what to do with your estate. A will only takes effect after your death, whereas a Trust can take effect while you are alive. There are benefits, especially when it comes to firearms and NFA items.

The way that I like to think of a Trust is that you essentially creating a pool of assets. A Settler is the person who creates the pool of assets. This pool of assets is then legally owned by the Trust itself. As the creator of the Trust, you appoint one or more Trustees. A Trustee is a manager of the Trust, and especially with NFA items, any Trustee can legally possess any of the items in the Trust.

Then, just as with a will, you can also add beneficiaries, who are the people who will basically inherit items from the Trust, but unlike a Trustee they will have to fill out the Form 5 paperwork. Trustees have to be of legal age, since they act as the managers of the trust, whereas a beneficiary can be any age, great for adding children to the Trust. You can even add a line of succession in a trust that can automatically make underage beneficiaries Trustees.

In my use case, both my wife and myself are Trustees, and we essentially manage the Trust. We have added underage family members as beneficiaries. In the event of death, the estate can be passed down. As some of the children grow up and become adults, they can be added as full-fledged Trustees and full “managers” of the estate.

Going through the process of getting a will done can seem daunting. In reality, a will can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. Having a will is important for when you pass, but a Trust is just as important (and useful) while you’re alive. Unlike a will, you can actually use the Trust on a daily basis, especially when it comes to NFA items.

Wills and Trusts aren’t just for rich people with vast estates. They can be used for something as simple as your beanie baby collection … and if you think your heirs won’t fight tooth and nail for those beanies, well, all I can say is that it’s probably a good thing you won’t be around to see it. You really don’t wanna leave it to others to decide how to proceed with the estate that you put so much hard work and effort into building, no matter how small it is. Take my advice and spend an hour or two with a lawyer setting everything up now—peace of mind for you and your assigns is the best inheritance of all. Trust.

—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. Unpewfessional Himself!




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