Gun Trust in Estate Planning

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What Is a Gun Trust?

A gun trust is intended to hold ownership of firearms. Such trusts are generally used to hold firearms that must comply with strict federal and state regulations, though they may also include other types of weapons. A gun trust can facilitate the way in which firearms are handled following the owner’s death, and may keep surviving family members from unintentionally violating the law.

What Are the Advantages of a Gun Trust?

By having a gun trust, you can avert some of the federal transfer prerequisites, and also succeed in carrying out other objectives. A gun trust can permit more than one person to use the firearms held in trust. You can name two trustees, each of whom has the right to own or use the firearms. Without a trust, only the registered owner could own or use the firearms.

The firearms held in trust are usually governed by two federal laws, the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and an amendment to that law, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. They are frequently called NFA or Title II firearms.

If you establish a trust to which you transfer firearms, you can have the trust remain in effect after your demise. The trustees and trust beneficiaries would possess the rights you give them according to the terms of the trust. You can, thus, avoid the transfer procedure by having the firearms remain in your trust upon your death. In this way, your heirs will not have to pay the $200 transfer tax, and obtain a form from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, also known as ATF or BATF, and file the form. In addition, they will not have to obtain consent from the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) for the local area, nor have their fingerprints and photographs taken.

Choosing a Trustee for Your Gun Trust

Because the executor of your estate may be unfamiliar with the rules concerning ownership and possession of firearms, he or she could inadvertently violate criminal laws by conveying a weapon to the trust without going through the correct channels. For this reason, when a trust includes firearms, it is best to name a trustee who is knowledgeable about state and federal gun laws. Therefore, the trustee, rather than the executor, is in control of the trust when it includes firearms.

Avoidance of Probate

Another benefit of using a gun trust is that the firearms will not have to go through probate upon your demise. There are some gun proponents who are concerned that in the future, it may be unlawful to leave specific firearms to heirs or transfer them during life. It is their wish that keeping the guns in a trust will allow them to avoid any restrictions.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

A gun trust is very different from the usual revocable living trust in that it may have many trustees, it may be designed to last for a number of generations, and it is required to comply with state and federal weapons laws. For these reasons, it is advisable to consult an estate planning attorney who is well versed in state and federal laws concerning the transfer of firearms.

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Last Modified: 08-24-2016 09:55 PM PDT

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