Boat Trusts

Have you ever wondered what happens to all those boats floating in a harbor or docked at a marina when the owner dies?

What happens to the enormous fancy yachts that people live on as they cruise from port to port or sail across the oceans visiting foreign ports of call?

What happens when the owner dies and the spouse or heirs have either no interest in owning a boat, or, more likely, no resources with which to actually pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the sailboat, yacht, or even a jet ski?

And what happens if your heirs don't live near any water?

Boats are assets of your estate, whether or not they are big or small.  Some are a considerable investment on the part of the owner: both in the large sums of money invested in buying the boat and the high costs associated with maintaining the boat, as well as an investment in time spent taking care of a boat.

Boat owners are notorious for their sentimental attachment to their boats.  There is a strong emotional bond between the owner and the boat that is difficult to describe, but if you are a boat owner, married to one, or know one, I think you understand what I mean.

Most boat owners do not "go down with the ship".  The boat has a better chance of outliving its owner.  So what's the plan?

Think about the following:

  • Is the boat insured?
  • Is the boat on a mooring?
  • Is the boat at a Marina?
  • If the boat is to be sold upon your death, is there money set aside to maintain it until the time it is actually sold? (note that costs for storing a boat, especially at a marina, can be very high)
  • If you plan to leave your boat to someone, can your heir afford to keep the boat?
  • You can't divide a boat per se, so what if you choose to leave the boat to more than one person? What if one of those heirs can't afford to keep the boat?
  •  Have you thought about the inheritance taxes regarding this boat?
  •  Who pays for the costs of the marina, or any boat storage, while your estate is being settled?
  • How about considering a boat trust? To spell out your wishes and to fund the costs associated with your boat?

What happens to a boat after the owner dies is not something to set aside when planning for the inevitable.

Careful planning and consideration for all of the "what ifs" will smooth the transfer to the next person or persons to motor or sail off into the sunset after you are no longer captain of that ship.

Do you have any boat stories to share with me?