A gun trust is used to transfer gun ownership after death. And like other trusts, a gun trust ensures that a firearm will be given to the trustee that the trustor wishes.
Setting up a gun trust should also keep the gun out of a lengthy probate process when someone dies. If you’re a gun owner, the last thing you want is for the court to decide who gets your family firearms.
How Does a Gun Trust Work?
A gun trust is a trust put in place to hold the title to your guns. You might also hear it called an NFA (National Firearms Act) gun trust. That’s because it is required when you own a Title II weapon (such as a machine gun or silencer) and want to allow designated friends or family to use it, whether you’re living or not. This is covered by the National Firearms Act.1
If it’s your wish to transfer ownership of any gun when you die—even a simple revolver or hunting rifle—you’ll need some preparation for that within your estate plan.
A gun trust is the solution. Whether you’re willing a firearm to a family member, or you want them to have access to it while you’re living, this type of trust legally protects both them and you.
Keep in mind, the trustee will need to pass a background check before they can legally take possession of the gun. There are several more considerations to make when choosing your beneficiary, so speaking to a local estate attorney will be necessary.
Disadvantages of a Gun Trust
To be honest, there really aren’t any disadvantages of a gun trust. And as I mentioned before, they’re necessary for someone wanting to pass down a family firearm. But depending on your situation, here are the potential downsides:
- Plenty of planning and paperwork
- Your trustee will need to be able to pass a background check
- Gun trusts vary state to state, so make sure you’re working with a local attorney
What to Do When a Gun Owner Dies
First, you’ll need to determine whether or not the person who passed had a will or a trust. Those documents will name someone as the executor of the will, or trustee of the trust. Typically, that is the person who can legally take possession of any firearms belonging to the gun owner who died and transfer them to whoever inherited them.
If the gun owner died without a will or trust in place, the process will be more complicated. In fact, the consequences of failing to properly prepare for transferring a gun can range from something relatively minor—like the weapon getting held up in the probate process—to severely damaging, like hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and jail time.
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If the gun owner didn’t have a will or trust in place, the first step is to determine the class of weapon. If it’s a Title II weapon as we mentioned earlier, it should be covered by the NFA. If a Title II weapon is not registered with the NFA, it is considered contraband and cannot be passed down. At that point, you’re legally required to turn the gun over to law enforcement. And depending on the cost of the Title II weapon, that could be a considerable loss to an inheritance.
If it’s not a Title II weapon, it will need to be transferred through a local organization with an FLL (Federal Firearm License).
How to Set Up a Gun Trust for Your Family Firearms
Passing down firearms from one generation to the next is an honored and worthy tradition. You want to make sure your exact wishes can be carried out in a legal and efficient way.
If you’re wanting to transfer gun ownership after death, I’d love to meet with you. Setting up a gun trust requires a deep knowledge of both state and federal gun and inheritance laws. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. As your attorney, I could provide a customized gun trust as part of your overall estate plan in Tennessee.
From Beacon Capital Management:
Ryan Knight, Attorney at Law owns Knight Legal and is our preferred partner. His office is jointly located with our headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee.
If you’re ready to talk about the legacy, estate planning options, and your overall financial plan—give our firm a call. Beacon Capital Management is a full-service wealth management firm that takes a comprehensive approach to financial planning, helping you cover the most important areas of your life.
1 ATF Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Atf.org. April 7, 2020. “National Firearms Act.” https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/national-firearms-act. Accessed Mar. 31, 2022.