Bikernet Blog Search Bikernet
Ride Forever -
Monday Edition

Estate Planning for Motorcycle Collectors

Or What To Do With Your Beloved Bikes When You’re Not Around To Do It

By John Stein with images from Sam Burns

Share this story:

As motorcycle fanatics, we’ve all laid awake nights wondering how we could add to our collections when at this point in our lives, doing exactly the opposite probably makes more sense. The reason, of course, is advancing age and the misguided belief that that just because we love this stuff, our children will as well.
Odds are they won’t.

How to proceed
The first thing to do is to create a document for your family, attorney, Financial Planner, etc. listing the motorcycles and parts you own, their condition, history if important, and estimated value. You might investigate a Living Trust, which can reduce costs, probate court issues, etc.
John produced this amazing book, which is now sold out. Amazon is selling copies for $500.
John produced this amazing book, which is now sold out. Amazon is selling copies for $500.

At the same time, you’ll want to move everything into one place—ideally your garage or storage unit. The fewer places you keep your collection, the easier the process becomes. And be prepared for the entire process to take far longer than you imagined. Considering the obscurity of certain motorcycles as well as the small pool of potential buyers for some of the more expensive ones and unpredictability of the market, it can easily take years.

Likely, selling off the parts will prove most challenging and time-consuming. You can’t donate them to charity or sell them at a Mecom’s-type auction as you can with a complete motorcycle. Your best bet then will be to sell them to another collector and EBay is an obvious way to do so. Museums might want them, but generally only if they’re free.

When you put out feelers, make sure they include overseas markets as well. A friend of mine has an enormous collection of parts for early Yamaha road racers, which he’s found move very slowly in the states but really well in England and Australia.

In God we trust. All others pay cash.
While you are the best person to handle the selling, you’ll need someone to help guide your family through the process when you’re unable to, and it must be someone you trust implicitly. We’ve all known collectors whose families were descended upon when they passed away, and those doing the descending were often unethical at best—telling the grieving family how they were promised certain bikes (which they weren’t) at ridiculously low prices (which again they weren’t).

Finding that person can take time as well. We all know people who know motorcycles just as we know people who know money. But it’s essential that whomever you choose has your best interests in mind rather than their own. For that reason, you’ll want to involve an estate attorney or estate planner to create a Directive to Heirs or Beneficiaries which lays out how you want your collection handled as part of your Estate.
Once you’ve created an estate plan, make sure that you assign or title each motorcycle to your Trust so as not to get tangled up in probate.

Separation anxiety? Not really.
Having recently begun the process of paring down my own collection, I’ve discovered a few things. After having sold some motorcycles I’ve owned for decades, I expected to mourn their loss—which hasn’t been the case at all. There’s actually something therapeutic about it. Not only will you have significantly more money in the bank, but fewer things to step over in the garage. And not to belabor the point but there’s the very real satisfaction that comes with removing a tremendous future burden on your family.

That said, you may want to keep certain motorcycles in your estate even if you’re not around to enjoy them. If you have the good fortune to own a particularly famous motorcycle, you may want to stipulate that it stays in the family. (It would be a purely emotional decision but aren’t we allowed one or two of those?)
John also created this DVD history of motorcycle drag racing with original footage.
John also created this DVD history of motorcycle drag racing with original footage.

All in all, the subject isn’t something we really want to think about but sooner or later, we have to. Such is life.
Don't forget to leave the girls something...
Don't forget to leave the girls something...

Note: I’m not pretending that this is the definitive work on winding down your collection or living your life. But if it has gotten you to at least consider what steps should be taken and how, the article will have done its job.

Quick, join the Cantina. Touch her.
Quick, join the Cantina. Touch her.

Share this story:

Back to Special Reports

Reader Comments

I would like to hear more about the Koehler Escoffer motorcycle.
I just learned about it this week.
The pictures on this article are great. I would like to see more.

Kevin F. Koehler
Edgar, WI
Saturday, January 14, 2023
Editor Response Let me see what I can find. That motorcycle is amazing.

Your thoughts on this article

Your Name
Anti-Spam Question:
Please enter the words you see in the box, in order and separated by a space. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this service.