Take the time to discuss “What happens when?” and arrangements for your motorhome in the event of a spouse’s death.
By Bob Gummersall, F127494
and Legislative Affairs Committee Member
Recently I have been involved in helping several widowed FMCA members who faced the difficult task of selling a motorhome. Two of these people lost a longtime partner suddenly. In one situation, a couple had traded up to a new diesel pusher coach just a month before the death. What a stressful situation that was.
We prepare a will, decide who will have our power of attorney, appoint someone to be an executor for our estate, and so forth. We also have insurance, such as MEDEX Plus, which FMCA members automatically receive. Its benefits include the return of a motorhome to one’s residence in the event of an accident, illness, or death while traveling on the road. But there is no “program” that will properly handle the sale of the motorhome, if that is required. It distresses me that we generally do not plan for this possibility.
Some spouses may not know how to drive the coach; some don’t even know how to hook up the power or water lines. During a period of grief, some of us should not be driving a motorhome anywhere. The survivor is left wondering what to do with the vehicle, and how much it is worth. Some books and Web sites can help you learn how to sell the coach. An article I wrote about selling your motorhome can be found at www.rversonline.org/ArtSellingTips.html and suggests methods of selling that can be helpful.
Like a proper will and insurance, we all need a plan to answer the question, “What happens when?” More specifically in this case, “What happens to the motorhome?” Everyone’s situation is different, but some suggestions could help the grieving survivor. Following are some ideas that you may want to consider:
1. Choose a trusted relative, friend, RV salesman, dealership, etc., and ask them to be responsible for selling your coach. Both traveling partners need to be involved in this decision, so that they trust the contracted party. Document your agreement with a letter, a purchase agreement, a limited power of attorney, or contract, and include this documentation with your will and instructions documents. Establish a plan so that your survivor has only one phone call to make, and the rest can happen in a predetermined fashion. That way, he or she would only have to sign some papers and could focus on other issues involved in moving forward after the loss of a spouse.
2. Have a reciprocal agreement with a trusted friend who can provide support for your spouse, whether that means offering a shoulder or giving financial advice. Pick a friend who can be an advocate and spare your spouse the stress of dealing with small things. This friend could provide your spouse with advice as the motorhome sale process is carried out.
3. If you belong to an FMCA chapter, perhaps someone in that group could be designated to provide support and communication to aid those who have lost a spouse. This person can develop options, written plans, seminars, and so forth to help fellow members decide what to do with the motorhome and to develop and document a plan in that regard.
4. If necessary, create a personalized checklist for the survivor that describes, in detail, how to drive the motorhome, make utility connections, operate accessories and appliances, etc.
5. Discuss all details of these plans with your partner, so they become set in concrete, just like a will.
In states that have no joint ownership with rights of survivor laws, the motorhome must be placed in a trust, and an executor identified. This plan puts the power of sale in the hands of the executor, after waiting for probate.
My wife, Sylvia, and I have had a motorhome disposal plan for the past 10 years, with three different motorhomes. Each plan was different, because the selling process for the motorhomes had to be different. Our current motorhome is a restored 1976 GMC, so we have made a reciprocal agreement with another couple in the GMC Cascaders chapter.
I would welcome any ideas from FMCA members to add to or modify these recommendations. I especially want to report variations of these suggestions that have worked well for members. Please visit www.fmcanw.org/survivor.htm (the Northwest Area Web site) for a report on new experiences, and feel free to send a detailed e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at (206) 232-6868, with your comments or to share your plan for motorhome disposal. Indicate whether you would be willing to have your e-mail address published so that other members can ask you questions via e-mail.
This Web site will grow over time with more reference information, member experiences, and other helpful tips. We also plan to have advisers who are willing to answer your specific questions. The first adviser will be me. It is my fondest hope to influence each couple to talk about this subject and develop a plan to ease the stress on the survivor.