List of my guns for wife

Not open for further replies.
Probated wills are public documents, so you shouldn't put anything into your will that you don't want potentially the whole world to know. Valuations especially don't belong in a will -- just put in a general description of the assets.

Make a list of the guns and put it in a sealed envelope addressed to your executor. You appoint the executor in the will and then he takes it from there.

Yes, I know that the conventional wisdom is to have a will. However, based on the specific situation, there may be distinct and compelling reasons not to have a will. Most people would do just fine with "testamentary substitutes" such as joint ownerships, insurance policies, beneficiary designations, trusts, etc., as well as the applicable State provisions for intestate succession.
People think if there is a will they have to open an estate and probate the will. Not so. It’s one of the most prevalent misconceptions I encounter as a lawyer.
I would agree that probate is best avoided where possible. Best plan is to sell or give it all away, with leftovers in trust for care of precious family, balance to designated charities. All to spouse is a wonderful concept until late in life when they are preyed upon by crooks and scammers.
People think if there is a will they have to open an estate and probate the will. Not so. It’s one of the most prevalent misconceptions I encounter as a lawyer.
That's certainly true. But remember that the decedent / testator won't be there to make the decision whether to probate, or not. Whoever has custody of the will, probably has a financial incentive to go ahead and probate it.
I don't know enough about this situation to have really appropriate answer, and I don't think I would learn enough about it without camping out at your house for a few days and seeing the dynamic in action. I can explain what I did with my late wife and hope that it provides you with some useful information.

First, I trusted my late wife implicitly. When you sleep in the same room with someone in a house filled with weapons, you'd better.

Second, virtually every gun I own was purchased during our marriage. Legally, my understanding is that makes them a community property asset, as much her property as mine.

Third, my Plan A was for her to outlive me. Statistically that's usually a safe bet with men and women in later life.

Therefore I kept and still maintain a detailed spreadsheet of my firearms, with serial numbers, dates of purchase, actual purchase prices (including DROS and tax) and a summary of modifications and extras (scopes, magazines, extra components, etc.) associated with each, along with their cost. In a separate PDF file is a set of photographs of each arm. I do separate spreadsheets for longarms and handguns, and include antiques, black powder repros and air guns. As my collection has grown, I've found this recordkeeping useful for my own benefit. I keep a couple of backup copies of this documentation on flash drives.

I showed my wife these lists after I first created them and asked whether she had any questions (reply was whew, that's a lot!) and told her where copies of the files would be stored in case I died and she wanted/needed to liquidate all or part of the collection. I also left instructions on how to open the various safes and which of my friends to consult with when selling firearms to get good deals and remain within the law. She then promptly tabled this whole issue and trusted I would have things up-to-date if it was needed later on. She didn't like thinking about death, and ironically died of cancer at 62, well ahead of schedule.

Having clear documentation, including a separate paper file with all the original purchase receipts and DROS forms is equally useful for insurance purposes, or in the event of police seizure (I'm in CA, so I need to consider this.)

If you are concerned that your spouse has ulterior designs on your firearms or assets in general, I suggest making a list such as this, give your spouse a brief look at it so she knows it exists and what it includes, then make a copy and tell her you have it in your safety deposit box at the bank, where she can find it in the event of your death or incapacitation.

Here is a brief story that may also prove instructional. My shooting buddy had a sister who was married to a gun guy. They divorced after two daughters and years spent together. He later remarried. Both he and his second wife ended up living with one of the aged 50-something daughters in what amounts to end of life home hospice care. Neither could take care of themselves, or manage their finances or healthcare. The daughter was given possession (in writing) of the gun collection and related material (ammo, reloading material, etc.) with the intention to sell everything to help defray the medical bills.

This gun guy did not keep written records of any kind. My buddy and I have been assisting with the identification of the various arms and providing a sense of relative values. Some have been sold locally, some are earmarked for auction sales when time permits, some of the non-regulated material was liquidated at a local gunshow. He had a lot of stuff and the process is still ongoing. Proper purchase documentation would have been a Godsend!
my wife has asked me to provide her with a list of my guns. if she were outright anti-guns, i wouldn't give it to her, but she's tolerant, not an activist. although she's been to the range with me and actually shot a few of my pieces, that has only happened once, out of curiosity--both the visit and the shooting. she's a European.
because she is susceptible to legacy news, especially the "mass shooting" drills, my concern is if she were to turn against me some day and call in the sheriff, for example, to pick up my guns, i'd be out of luck. i think she may know it's "love me, love my guns," more or less; in any case, i don't want to risk losing my "baker's dozen" pieces.
also interested in suggestions about just what information elements i should provide to her? location? serial numbers? i don't have a safe, and my pieces (a shotgun, a few rifles, handguns) are scattered about my workshop and home office, closets, etc. one or two of them are nearly collector's items.
an off-site storage facility would cost me more than $100/month--i would feel vulnerable using one, and not having my guns at hand.
i live in a single-family home in a semi-rural area near a small city. i am eighty, and currently we are without a dog, although will have one again in a few months. i would appreciate any suggestions you may have.
That’s not too bad. Wait until she wants to know what you paid for them 🤣
My dad was a week shy of 90 when he passed. He was long past shooting his rifles due to shoulder issues. He was mostly passed shooting pistols. He enjoyed his collection, but wouldn’t let anything be done to handle them for his estate. I did an inventory for him, with serial numbers which I kept. When he moved to hospice, I took all the pistols to a friend who’s a dealer. I moved into his house with him and brought mine. Anyhow the point is to think longer term. Final disposition, when you’re doing well. That way you won’t when you’re not.
That's certainly true. But remember that the decedent / testator won't be there to make the decision whether to probate, or not. Whoever has custody of the will, probably has a financial incentive to go ahead and probate it.
Generally I see that scenario when there are competing wills, or someone wants to contest the will and is willing to spend the low sum to file a petition to open an estate and seek to be named the administrator over the directive in the will.
Either way, it’s better to avoid probate if possible, for the simple fact it becomes a public matter when one goes down that road.
My wife asked a similar question a while back. We are both 69, and she has a few guns of her own. The reason for her question was, if something happened to both of us. What would happen to the guns? So we are both going to look into a trust, to ensure they will go directly to my son, and not end up in probate for weeks or years, or worst.

An aside on estates: mom set up a living trust for her assets, having her lawyer write up a will, medical directive and durable power of attorney at the same time. It made a fair settlement much simpler and kept all three of her surviving children on good terms afterward. I was her executor and I'm pleased to say that when I presented the final accounting my sister referred to me as "the fairest of them all", even though I was just following instructions.

Guns weren't a part of mom's estate, since she had me sell dad's handful (4 bolt action rifles and 2 repro percussion revolvers) well before she died. However, the fee I charged against the estate for my 100+ hours work as executor paid for a CZ527 full-stocked rifle. I named it Agnes after my mom -- she would have been livid at the thought!


By comparison, my dad's brother, an insurance broker and non-practicing member of the Nebraska Bar, did not put the intentions for the division of his estate down in writing. When he and his wife died in 2007, about a week apart, the final deposition of his valuable business had not been explicitly laid out. He of all people should have known better. The disputes that followed tore his family apart, and I'm not sure whether any of his four daughters or their children are on speaking terms to this day.

The moral: if you have heirs, and if you care whether your family's relationships survive intact after you're gone, get things down in writing, right now!
Last edited:
My dad had a bunch.
Was a lot of work cleaning, inventory, price checks etc........for the estate.
Not to mention the security risk ( buying another safe and moving stuff without neighbors knowing).
Spent a lot of time there, plus taking to shops to consign, keeping track of all that.

Won't have nearly as much.
My kids can figure it out when I'm dead.

All legal, and nobody's business what I have.
Especially some woman that would just trot off to a lawyer with any list.
No dispute on my dads estate, two heirs, one pretty much anti gun.
Sold em all and split 50/50.
Did not buy any of the stuff (could have for basically half price) for investment.

Rather buy my own.

Neat stuff, went bye bye.
Eh, I don't even use what I have, no need for more.
Make the list and put it somewhere she will have access to when you become incapacitated years in the future. My list is in my safe which is a chore to open. My wife knows the combo, but refuses to fight the touchy dial. My dad also knows the combo as well as 1 friend who has guns in the safe. If I get splattered on the road the list and guns are accessible enough to be liquidated and preserved in trust for inheritance.
What guns?
I guessin' if the OP's wife wants a list, she knows for sure he has guns. Never understood the philosophy of "hiding" things from your spouse. Even tho my wife is not a gun person, she sees what I shoot at our personal range, and she sees what I carry out the door to take hunting. She is quick to notice anything different and usually makes a statement like, "oh, another new gun?". Generally with a smirk and a wink. Never have I thought she was up to something nefarious when asking. Since we have enough trust in each other to spend our monies responsibly, we do not need to seek the other's permission to make small investments like guns. Nor do either of us feel the need to hide any of those small investments from each other. Few years back I made a list of guns I owned and add to it everytime I get another firearm. It's in the Safe Deposit box at the bank. I have it not only for insurance purposes, but it also has my wishes to which family member that particular firearm will go when I die. If you have to hide your guns from your spouse, what other things are you hiding and what is she hiding from you?
If you have to hide your guns from your spouse, what other things are you hiding and what is she hiding from you?
That’s not too bad. Wait until she wants to know what you paid for them 🤣
My wife and I have a joint checking account, joint savings accounts, a joint credit card, we used to have a joint mortgage, and we file jointly at income tax time every year. Besides all that, both of our names are on our motor vehicle registrations, and we have jointly owned burial (cremation) insurances with the same company. How in the world would my wife not know how much I paid for my guns? o_O
For that matter, my wife even knows what I paid for the guns I've bought as gifts for her - just like I know how much she paid for guns like the Shiloh-Sharps .45-110 she bought for me for our 25th wedding anniversary (28 years ago BTW). 😁
Last edited:
Just have a good description and the value of each and tell her its in the safe. Never let a wife know how much you have in firearms or the combo to the safe, possible bad outcomes : divorce, wanting to spend an equal amount of money on her junk (women don't understand guns go up in value), are you in a red flag state? Do you trust her to not tell her friends that you own a large gun collection?
Wife knows exactly what I own and what's in the safe. Wife also knows that along with my guns and her jewelry in the safe there is an inventory of everything including estimated values. I am aware of which pieces of her jewelry go to daughter and daughter-in-law as well as granddaughter for division much as wife knows which guns to distribute to family and what to sell off. While Kathy does own a few guns she is not a shooting enthusiast as I am. The kids are also well aware of who gets what and matter of fact the kids have copies of our will. Guns, jewelry, properties everything we own is all spelled out and everyone knows just how well spelled out. Kathy has managed our finances for decades I guess it's about who we trust with certain information. :)

While not listed in my trust, a Word document with photos of my various firearms and some information about each one is kept in the 3-ring binder that also contains my trust documents, healthcare P.o.A., and property P.o.A.
This is a timely post for me. My 88 year old friend died this morning. A big loss for me. He was a god friend. He was an avid collector and no one knew precisely how many guns he had; many dozen for sure. Three years ago his wife kicked him out along with all his guns; this after he fell and end up in assisted living. (you can't always have a spouse with your best interest at heart) At the time of his expulsion from his home, his guns got spilt up between his kids and their spouses, "for safe keeping." with his consent. He never stopped searching for a situation where he could get all his guns back and resume collecting. Sadly, he died in a hospital with no chance to distribute his guns as he hoped to. He started collecting when he was 13 years old!

Second story: My brother died just last year at age 87 and his guns remain in storage awaiting final distribution. I hope to buy some of his 30+ gun collection, but I have no idea how it will be done. He did not leave any details or directions or a will. This in spite of my encouragment for him to do so. I know a great deal more about brother's collection than any other family member. I helped him find guns he looked for and I shot many of his guns. We hunted, reloaded, collected, and shot together a lot in the past 40 years after he retired from the Army. Not sure if his kids will allow me to participate in the final decisions.

Third story: I am 77 and healthy with a 75 year old wife who is much younger than her years. Odds are she will outlive me. I've taught her to shoot and bought a couple of handguns for her, Truthfully, she has little interest, but whole-heartedly supports my hobby. I maintain a list of all my guns with some detail on each gun. I try to update the list frequently. But, the last time I noticed that some scopes were wrong as I had switched them, bought new ones, and sold a couple of guns. My goal at this point is to sell as many of the guns as I can. I certainly do not want to leave her with the burden of uncertainty and many decisions. I'm selling guns that I have no realistic use for. So, a will regarding coveted family heirlooms will be drawn. And the rest she will sell, after my ashes are scattered, as she decides. I DO NOT keep secrets from my wife about my guns. She knows exactly how much I paid for each and every one of them and how much I sold them for. We've talked some about this. Tough conversations for sure, but necessary. In the words of Jordan B. Peterson, PHD., "WHEN IN DOUBT, TELL THE TRUTH."

Any suggestions or comments are welcome. This is a sad day, even as I load my car to go turkey hunting.
My wife didn't know all the guns I owned. Now that she has left and filed divorce, I am quite glad she doesn't. Make a list for yourself and keep it updated. Include date bought, place, how much etc. Any information you want. Keep copies in multiple places so it can be found only by the people who deserve it and when they deserve it. Otherwise I would not give her any specific information. Buy a safe, lock them up, and don't give the combination to her.
Easy solution. Don't get married.
probably not what people want to hear but it's the best option in 2024.

I almost got married once,
Now I get to wonder how much my ex talks about my collection to her new methhead friends.

It's often not the people you show that steal stuff. It's the people they tell.
Last edited:
Not open for further replies.