Survivors of the Last Flight

Survivors of the Last Flight

by Dan Griffin

I stood in my RC workshop the other day wondering what was going to happen to all my RC gear. Then it dawned on me—I will not have to deal with any of this stuff when I slip the surly bonds. Even though I plan to be around for a while longer, my family and friends will be left with the task. Not knowing when that last flight may take place, we owe them some guidance.

I have had the opportunity to assist many individuals in the disposal of their worldly possessions. There are always some sobering considerations for them. Who gets what? How much is this or that item worth? How is it all going to be distributed? When can it be distributed? Your survivors will be grateful if such questions are answered for them prior to your last flight.

Make a List
The first task you need to address is making a list of your treasures. In fact, make several lists: one list for your ready-to-fly craft, another list of your unfinished projects and kits, another of your electronics, and a general items list with all your parts pieces and building materials. You don’t need to list every nut, bolt, screw, and hinge. The goal of these lists is for a person unfamiliar with the RC hobby to take the list, go into your work shop, and identify each item on the list.

My longtime friend and fellow adventurer, George Sheffield, AMA #9460, came up with a novel way to make his list and keep his friends attentive. He will invite all his RC friends over to his house. They will assist him in inventorying and making his lists. As a reward, each helpful friend will be put on a list to be given to George’s significant other. When, as George says, the big day comes, each of the friends on the list will be invited over to George’s workshop. Numbers will be put into his old BAMS RC club hat. Each friend will draw a number. Then, in numerical order, each friend will be allowed to enter George’s RC hangar and choose an item as a token of George’s friendship and esteem.

How Much is it Worth?
As you make the list, also give each item an estimated fair value you would use at your favorite swap meet. Be realistic. Don’t give what you think is the fair market value, or the imagined future value, or ascribe any additional value to the item just because it has sentimental value to you. Your family will be very grateful that you have done this. They most likely will not have any idea what your stuff is worth or what to ask for it when the time comes to sell it.

How to Dispose of It
Many things will change from the time you make your lists to the time your family uses them. I do not generally recommend that you make changes or codicils to your Last Will and Testament to include your RC bequests. Those are costly and unnecessary. I do recommend that you sit down and write a letter of intent to be placed with your estate planning documents.

In this letter, give directions to the person administering your estate about what you want done with your possessions, and who you want to receive which items from your lists. This letter, in most states, is not legally binding, but it will provide invaluable guidance to your estate administrator about your wishes. One reality of any hobby is that most members of your family will not share your passion for the hobby. As a result, disposition of your RC gear should be as easy and expeditious as you can make it.

Where to Dispose of It
Your disposal choices are pretty limited for your RC stuff. You can offer the items to your RC club members, send them to a swap meet, donate them to a worthy cause, sell them in classified ads, or just plain give them away to your friends. Each choice has its pros and cons. Remember that before you can give away or dispose of any estate property, either the Court has to give you permission to do so, or the estate administrator has to be empowered by the Court to do so.

The first items to go are the outright gifts to a person, organization, or institution. The individuals or institutions should be contacted prior to delivery to make arrangements. If you are giving items to museums, schools or other institutions, they sometimes require documentation before accepting the item and giving charitable contribution receipts.

I most often see RC estates offered first to the RCer’s fellow club members. You will get a bit more value for each item this way because of the club members’ attachment to the person and his family. This is where your lists and estimated values will really come in handy.

Next, there is the RC swap meet. This is where most estates go to dispose of the last items. However, you must bear in mind, most of us that go to swap meets are looking to snag an item at so low a price that it is considered a steal or a bargain too good to pass up. Practically, for your estate, that means you are not going to get anywhere near fair market price or hobby store prices for the items. For this reason, I suggested you add a fair value swap meet price to each item on your lists. Don’t unrealistically build your loved ones expectations of the value of your RC gear.

Sometimes, classified ads, on-line auctions, and RC swap sites can be helpful. The big downside is that once the sale is made, someone has to pack up and ship the items to the purchasers. This can be costly and time consuming, so you may not want to put your family through it. [There are businesses and individuals that will sell your items on eBay for a fee. These can get good money if your items are listed properly and fees are not excessive. Consider these services after checking their references - SFDRMC editor comment].

Make a Plan
No one really wants to sit around and contemplate the inevitable, but a little PPP (proper prior preparation) will help your family and friends make the necessary closure. Contact one or two of your RC buddies. Be considerate and ask them if they would be willing to assist your family when the time comes. Talk through your wishes. Most importantly, talk to your significant other about your plan and where to locate the letter of intent and your lists.

Update Your Lists
Every six months or so, sit down and review your letter of intent, lists, and valuations. Things change, friendships end or fade, and new priorities arise and need to be addressed. Q

Dan Griffin, AMA #590996, has been involved in the legal profession as a practicing attorney and adjunct professor for more than 22 years. Now retired from active law practice, he is a member of District VIII’s Boerne Area Model Society.

Donate to the National Model Aviation Museum

The AMA Museum does actively solicit donations to its collections. We are, however, selective in what we collect because of space and budget constraints.

If you have items that you would like to donate to the museum after your death, please contact the museum staff to learn if we need the items for the collection, and to discuss an Intent-to-Donate agreement. Before contacting the museum, please create a general list of what you have to donate.

A step-by-step guide to donating to the museum collection, as well as common questions and museum staff contact information, can be found at
Or, you can contact Museum Registrar Maria VanVreede at, (765) 287-1256, extension 508, and she would be happy to discuss it with you.