View Full Version : A widow's mistake....
07-24-2009, 12:13 AM
And perhaps the late husband's mistake as well. Just got off the phone with a widow whose husband died 2 1/2 years ago. A friend tipped me off that she is now ready to clean out the shop. Unfortunately, she said he had taken his lathe apart just before he died and since the parts were all scattered around the shop, she called a junk man to haul it away.
Fortunately, she did have the local machinery dealer come by and do an appraisal on what's left so she won't take too big a bath on that.
Some years ago, I encountered another widow who had a box full of her late husband's stuff. Unfortunately, it was mostly drill bits, discount store sockets, a couple of hand-held drill motors, and other cheap junk. Most of it was just ordinary homeowner's type stuff. She had gone through the Grainger catalog and decided that each item was worth 1/2 of the Grainger price. I didn't have the heart to tell her that used drill bits sell by the pound around here, and the K-mart socket set was hardly worth a buck-fifty. She wanted $3000 for the lot when, on a good day, it might bring $150. I didn't have the heart to tell her.
The lesson is whether you have a will or not, write a "letter of instruction" for your successors. I have done this and provided as much info about the shop stuff as I can think of (as well as the location of the life insurance policies, bank accounts, etc.). Such a document contains stuff that wouldn't necessarily go in a will. Be sure your family knows where this is or has copies. I put mine in sealed envelopes (there are no surprises... but it's just not their business to read it now) and gave one to each kid and have one here in the house where everyone knows we keep the important papers. You just don't know when the reaper will appear and I don't want my tools to be hauled off to the scrapper or sold at a garage sale for next to nothing. At the same time, I don't want my heirs to have unrealistically high ideas of what the stuff is worth.
07-24-2009, 12:38 AM
Those are all good points that you raise about making plans ahead of time. Unfortunately many people don't even want to tell anyone their wishes about the dispositioin of their machinery after their passing, let alone write a will, They feel that somehow the very act of contemplation of death will start some ethereal mechanism that ultimately results in an untimely end.
I can understand the widow wanting more for the remaining items than they are worth. The thing that bothers me is the fact that she sent the lathe parts out to the junk yard without so much as a question. Could it be that she resented the time he spent workng with his machinery? The thought came to mind. I doubt we'll ever find out.
The market will take care of the values of the remaining items. She will soon face the reality that things are just worth what someone will pay for them.
Sadly, it sounds like she might have recovered something at least for the lathe, even in pieces. Some potential buyers might have even preferred to find one in that condition, since it would have been fairly straightforward to assess its value and also easier to haul it away. It's too late now.
07-24-2009, 12:41 AM
My wife and I were just talking about this. I plan on making a list of what's what and how much I have invested in the tool/tooling. I'd like to see the contents of the shop go to my kids, but if there's no interest in it from either of them I don't mind if the stuff is sold off cheap to someone looking to tool up. I just want my wife to know what each tool is and what a fare price is for it.
That's a very good point. My wife has said numerous times she'd have a very difficult time disposing of my stuff. A few instances I recall are an M head Bridgeport with a slotting attachment I bought from widow for $650.00 (her advertised price), a friend of mine in the late seventies who bought a nice Harley for $500.00 from a widow (again, her advertised price), and an acquaintance who was approached by the survivors of an individual with a substantial collection of militaria who offered to pay him to dispose of it! He instead gave them $1500.00 , filled his van three times and made a killing on the stuff.
07-24-2009, 01:27 AM
Almost two years ago now, a fellow passed locally. He had a small garage shop, including an import mill-drill with a reasonable amount of tooling. Decent, relatively new machine, R8, but still a round-column mill-drill. He also had an extensively tooled US-made lathe, and a small, but fair, amount of measuring tools.
The widow asked the college machine shop teacher to come by and "appraise" everything so she could sell it. He, and another fellow, spent some 24 hours all told, locating, identifying, and pricing things down to handfuls of drill bits.
The priced everything reasonably- not a "screaming deal", but neither were the prices absurd.
Two weeks later, she apparently called up one of the people that had come by to look at the mill, and told him to "come and get it. I just want it gone."
So he did.
No explanation, but I assume there was some emotion/grief/grieving involved.
Some four months later, I found out about the lathe, and was surprised it was still available. Why? because she was asking $3,500 and wouldn't take a penny less.
Obviously something changed between those times.
Most people that looked at it thought that was too high. As did I, but apparently the emotion had swung back around and for me she at least allowed me to break it up into payments. I justified the cost in that it was, as I said, heavily tooled.
I found out later that the mill had gone to a fellow in another town, who passed away roughly a year later. At the auction, the mill-drill and tooling sold for... I seem to recall it was bordering on absurd, like $2,800 or something like that. Nowhere near as well tooled as my lathe, and it'd spent the preceding year inside a weld, fab and blacksmith shop, and when I saw it, the ways were already well scarred.
Personally, I don't care how much they "get" for my stuff, I just don't want to see it- er, you know what I mean :) - get junked.
We have all that well sorted. Between my son in law and my son they will come and haul it all away on the condition they clean out everything. It's my SIL that really wants the machines and my wife considers it a good deal in exchange for cleaning out all my "junk". I just have to be careful what I eat when they visit......
07-24-2009, 03:15 AM
My wife's greatest fear is that I'll go first and she will have to get rid of my stuff...
I told her - "just call all my buddies -they'll know what to do with it, and then they'll want a date. Just don't date the one that wants all the stuff or nothing will change..." :D
07-24-2009, 03:49 AM
As I was sneaking another "new" lathe into the shed this week I was spotted by SWMBO and got a finger wagged at me! We have an agreement, that each of us can spend our own money on whatever we like! I buy tools and machinery, she buys clothes and handbags. She reckons if I die first she'll be able to buy a bit of stuff with that lathe!
Your Old Dog
07-24-2009, 09:08 AM
............The lesson is whether you have a will or not, write a "letter of instruction" for your successors. I have done this and provided as much info about the shop stuff as I can think of (as well as the location of the life insurance policies, bank accounts, etc.). Such a document contains stuff that wouldn't necessarily go in a will. Be sure your family knows where this is or has copies. I put mine in sealed envelopes (there are no surprises... but it's just not their business to read it now) ............
Been there, done that. In case you're wondering what you think about while you are hooked up to an EKG machine in a hospital while you are having heart problems I can tell you first hand. My heart was booking along at 150 bpm in a state called Atrial Fibrillation. Not being a doctor I really didn't know what was going on but thought that the chance of my getting home and seeing my family again was pretty slim.
What you actually think about are your loved ones and what kind of shape you are leaving them in. How will they fare if you don't make it. I wish I would have left her my bank and business passwords for retirement and 401k plans. Will she get taken over the coals when she starts to liquidate my rather extensive toy collection? Will she get taken on home repairs that aren't necessary? Did you tell them all enough times that you loved them so that there is no doubt in their minds? That is what you think about when you are on your death bed and not survival as some say is the most basic instinct. Happiness is the most basic instinct. (how many have given their lives so that others may live and why? Everything we do, we do to make us happy.)