What is a Gun Trust?
A gun trust is a revocable trust created to hold title to your firearms. Because the trust is a legal entity, it becomes the legal owner of the guns and is transferred to the trust or purchased by the trust. A trustee is named to manage the trust for the trust’s beneficiaries. Because the trust is revocable, the grantor can make changes to the trust agreement or void the trust at any time before the grantor’s death. Upon the death of the grantor, the trust becomes irrevocable. An alternate trustee manages the trust for the individuals who become the beneficiaries after the grantor’s death.
A gun trust also allows gun owners to keep information about their guns private. Trusts are not subject to probate; therefore, the firearms owned through a trust are never listed in a person’s probate estate. Furthermore, a gun trust can be used to hold title to other firearms to protect a gun collection and preserve it for future generations.
Assets held in trust are also not probate assets. This means that if someone was the grantor or beneficiary of a trust, upon that person's death the property in the trust will transfer according to the terms of the trust without going through the probate process.
Commonly, gun trusts are used for weapons that are regulated by two federal laws: the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and a revision of that law, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. These weapons are often called NFA or Title II firearms. NFA weapons include machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles, and short-barreled shotguns (including sawed-off shotguns), grenades, and others.
NFA weapons must have a serial number and be registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly called the ATF or BATF. (If such a weapon isn’t already registered, you cannot register it; it is illegal to own.) They can be
possessed and used only by the registered owner. To transfer a registered firearm, the owner must get ATF approval and pay a tax as determined by the ATF. Other federal laws also affect NFA weapons. For example, since 1986 it has been illegal to manufacture machine guns, and only those manufactured before that date may be legally purchased. (Firearm Owners Protection Act.) State laws may further restrict NFA firearms as well.
What Does a Gun Trust Do?
Gun trusts deal with ownership of firearms that are subject to stringent federal and state regulations. These trusts make it easier to possess and handle firearms after the owner passes away and protect heirs from unintentionally breaking the law.
A gun trust serves to legally preserve the firearms you currently own or plan to purchase and makes them protected assets. This allows the grantor to bypass requirements to seek law enforcement approval for the purchase and ownership of certain firearms, and further allows the grantor to share the firearms legally with family members and to pass them on responsibly after the death of the grantor.
Advantage of a Gun Trust
Gun trusts are an important part of an estate plan for gun owners and collectors. Gun trusts deal with ownership of firearms that are subject to stringent federal and state regulations. These trusts make it easier to possess and handle firearms after the owner passes away and protects heirs from unintentionally breaking the law.
Gun trusts provide a number of important advantages to owners of NFA firearms, such as:
- Co-Trustees can use and possess the firearms registered to the gun trust.
- Firearms are inherited by the beneficiaries.
- Gun trusts protect your firearms in the case of a determination of incompetency.
Is a Gun Trust Revocable or Irrevocable?
A gun trust revocable for as long as the grantor is alive. Upon the death of the grantor, it becomes irrevocable. The trust should be created with all the formalities required under the laws where the grantor resides. The trust should state that the owner’s specific purpose in setting up the trust is to comply with the NFA and other identified laws. The grantor will name an eligible trustee as well as successor trustees. Eligible trustees should be persons who are allowed to own guns under the applicable laws. The trust should include explicit language as to the conditions under which modifications may be made and by whom.
How We Can Help
When you have a gun trust drafted by Mile High Estate Planners, you can ensure your legal protection, get answers to your questions, and gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you are receiving professional service and advise. MILE HIGH ESTATE PLANNING expertly sets up the trust in partnership with you, the grantor.
A gun trust may have multiple trustees, be intended to last for more than one generation, and must take into account state and federal weapons laws. If you want to leave guns in trust, we can offer our counsel and recommendations, as our team manages these trusts professionally. We provide exceptional and extensive knowledge and experience with state and federal laws that govern who can legally use and possess weapons and how they must be transferred.
Gun Trust FAQs
An NFA Gun Trust is a trust document that caters to the National Firearms Act and firearm laws. NFA Gun Trusts are generally used for citizens to legally own/purchase and use NFA firearms. NFA Gun Trusts are also used to legally pass down NFA and non-NFA firearms that a member has acquired over the period of his life. NFA Gun Trusts also describe how the items in the NFA Gun Trust are going to be passed on after the Trustor is incapacitated, passes away, or is no longer able to manage the trust.
You have the ability to quickly react to Red Flag Orders. You are consolidating ownership in an entity that can potentially last indefinitely. You have ease of transfer of possession to the next generation – ownership stays with the trust. You have the ability to leave a jurisdiction and transfer physical location of the firearms should the local laws change in the future.
Funding your gun trust is the physical process of transferring your assets from yourself to your gun trust. Funding your gun trust paperwork is required for your trust to be valid and legal. A gun trust cannot be created unless the gun trust has trust property or assets attached to it.
A gun trust can avoid some of the federal transfer requirements and accomplish other goals as well:
Allow more than one person to possess and use the weapons held in trust. If you name more than one person as trustee, each trustee will have the right to possess or use the trust firearms
Keep the gun in the trust even after the current owner’s death, avoiding the usual transfer requirements. If you create a trust and transfer firearms to it, you can arrange for the trust to stay in existence even after your death. The trustees and beneficiaries of the trust would have whatever rights you grant them in the terms of the trust. Because the firearm stays in the trust at your death, the transfer procedure is avoided. That means your inheritors don’t have to pay transfer tax, file an ATF transfer form, receive permission from the local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), or be fingerprinted and photographed in connection with being a trust beneficiary.
Helps the executor. The executor of your estate—the person who is responsible for gathering your assets, paying your debts, and distributing what’s left—may not be familiar with the rules about ownership and possession of NFA and other weapons. An executor could violate criminal laws by transferring a weapon without going through the proper procedure, taking or sending it to a state where it is prohibited, or giving it to a person who is legally prohibited from owning it. (The Gun Control Act makes it unlawful for certain persons to possess firearms. The law prohibits anyone who was ever convicted of a felony or of misdemeanor domestic violence, is prohibited by a restraining order from harassing an intimate partner, uses a controlled substance unlawfully, or is an illegal alien, to name just some of the restrictions.) When firearms are in a trust, the executor is not involved; the trustee is in charge. You can name a trustee who is well-versed in state and federal gun laws.
Avoid probate. Because the firearms are held by a trust, they do not need to go through probate at your death
Avoid possible future restrictions on gun transfers. Although no such legislation has been proposed, some gun advocates fear that someday it will be illegal to leave certain firearms to inheritors or transfer them during life. They hope that holding the guns in trust will let them get around any limitations if they are enacted.