This Tales from The Garage is all about trust and it starts with a simple question. No matter if you have one or two cherished cars or fifty, who do you trust to drive them? Your wife? Your children? Your best friend? Scary question, huh?
Okay, so now we jump forward, hopefully, many many years in the future. You, trusted car connoisseur and collector, are no longer here. Get my drift? Your choice, Dirt Nap or Final Bar-B-Que, it doesn’t matter. What matters is someone else will be looking for your keys and adjusting the seats. Still queasy? Okay, with that slightly acidic taste still in your mouth, how about being a bit proactive about who is in charge of your toys.
Recently while reviewing my Estate Plan (a slow day for sure) I realized that my automobiles and assorted automotive collections needed their own caregiver Makes perfect sense and thus was born “The Automotive Trustee.” I have been firsthand witness to many estate trustees who call me and say, “My (blank) died and left a (blank) in the garage, what should I do with it?” What this means is the person whom you trust to settle your final affairs may not be the best person to handle your automotive legacy. While your spouse and/or children may understand you valued your cars, they may not know the true value of the one-owner-since-new-original-paint-full-service-records car or of that greasy box of parts you spent years hunting down. Enter, The Automotive Trustee. This is a person, most likely your best car friend, whose knowledge of your cars is second only to your own. His or her job, in your sad absence, is to find proper homes and achieve true value for your cars.
The idea is very simple and easy to expedite. First, figure out who that person is, ideally someone younger than you or, failing that, much healthier, who has a good chance of being around after you… are not. Next, ask him or her if they would be willing to act as your trustee for all things automotive. In a perfect world, this person would make you his or her trustee as well, making for a neat little reciprocal agreement. Not a requirement, but a nice little moment of car bonding.
Next, write up one sheet (or more) for each vehicle, collectible, or collection. This would include the basics: Year/make/model, VIN, colors, license plate number, location of vehicle, date purchased, original costs, details of extras and options, number produced, etc. Then write a one or two paragraph summary of the history of the vehicle. Remember, only you know these details and if you are not here, this information is lost. Next is a list of related but very important items – location of all service files and records, spare parts, key location, insurance policies, and, finally, location and access to the titles. This document may be amended as needed.
These documents, naming your Automotive Trustee and contact information as well as the actual inventory, goes into your estate plan. In creating my own Automotive Trustee, I decided to motivate him by giving him a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of the cars and related collections. You may raise or lower that percentage as you see fit. Or, if you are feeling particularly generous and you know which of your cars or collection is the favorite of your Automotive Trustee, give him or her that item in exchange for liquidating everything else. Also, if a percentage seems too much or too little, set a flat fee. It is all up to you and your Trustee. All proceeds are turned over to the Estate Trustee who would then pay the “commission” directly to the Automotive Trustee after the funds from the sales are deposited. Should your Automotive Trustee wish to purchase one of your vehicles for him or herself, then the prevailing market value would apply as approved by the Estate Trustee.
Okay, you ask, why bother with all of this? Well, how many times have you heard stories of a spouse or son/daughter just getting rid of cars in order to settle an estate as quickly as possible? They not only miss an opportunity for top dollar but, more importantly, for making sure that the cars go into the hands of people who will care about what they are, just like you did.
That’s it. Simple. Most people spend a lot of time thinking about and naming guardians and/or godparents for their children, a job that is seldom called upon. Why not a “guardian/godparent” for your cars? Because we know for sure, you will be unavailable. Trust me.
- Rodney Kemerer