A Gun Trust Can Smooth Transfer of Firearms

Estate planning can get complicated when it involves transferring a collection of art, cars or other such possessions. It gets trickier still for guns.

Whether it is grandpa’s Browning rifle from World War II, an antique pistol from the Revolutionary War passed down through generations, or a collection of hunting guns, firearms present some unique legal challenges. These often can be solved through the use of a so-called gun trust.

Typically set up as a revocable living trust, a gun trust is crafted specifically to hold firearms, with the gun owner generally acting as the trustee.

They are most commonly used to hold certain federally-restricted items, such as silencers because they can help cut down on some of the paperwork needed to possess, transfer and own such possessions. But estate planners say they are increasingly being used to create a road map for families left to handle a deceased loved-one's collection.

For one thing, many executors or trustees might not be familiar with state and federal laws for firearms, as well as safety, storage, or the best way to liquidate a collection. By setting up a specific gun trust, a successor trustee that is well-versed in firearms and the laws affecting them can be named to handle the transfer of the collection.

A big issue is often who would be the likely buyers and who to trust to treat your family fairly. Having a trustee with firearms knowledge can be helpful.

A successor trustee can make sure the beneficiaries are legally allowed to access or own the firearms. The U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 bars giving or selling a gun to someone who is, for example, under indictment for a serious crime or is an addict. A trustee can also help create contingency plans in case a beneficiary becomes a so-called prohibited person at some point.

Another benefit of a gun trust: Avoiding the probate process that could expose a collection and the beneficiaries to becoming a part of the public record.

Privacy is especially important to many collectors with valuable items that could become the target of thieves.

A gun trust doesn’t always make sense for a client, especially if the heirs are likely to be experienced with firearms themselves. Trusts also aren’t usually worth creating for those with very few, lower-value firearms that aren’t subject to certain federal restrictions.

If you would like to learn more about gun trusts or need help to determine if a gun trust is right for you, contact our office.