Estate planning in general is about ensuring that your wishes are carried out. A gun trust can be used to ensure that your firearms go to the people you want them to go to and to protect that person from breaking the law. Anyone who owns a Title II weapon is aware that regulations for such weapons are strict and can be confusing to those not familiar with them. A gun trust can be a useful device to allow your friends and loved ones to legally use the weapon while you’re alive, and to legally receive the weapon after your passing.
Any legally owned gun can be placed in a gun trust. Though there are good reasons to place any firearm into a trust, gun trusts are usually used for weapons classified under the National Firearms Act (NFA) Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968; these weapons are called Title II or NFA weapons. Examples of such weapons include, machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, and suppressors (silencers), though other weapons can also fall under this classification. Title I weapons, on the other hand, include ordinary rifles, pistols and revolvers; a gun trust may be a good option for an owner of a collection of Title I weapons.
2016 Amended Regulations
Effective July 2016, identification and background checks requirements are the same for trusts and legal entities as they are for individual owners. All “responsible persons” associated with a trust must complete the proper background check procedures. This applies when purchasing or receiving NFA firearms from a Federal firearms licensee (FFL) or making a Title II firearm. Along with submitting the proper forms to the ATF, fingerprint cards and a recent photo must also be sent. A “responsible person” is anyone that has authority to receive, possess, transport, deliver, transfer, or dispose of a firearm, on behalf of the trust.
Also, under the current regulations, each responsible person of a trust must submit a National Firearms Act Responsible Person Questionnaire (Form 5320.23) to the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of the jurisdiction the person lives; the form must also be submitted to the CLEO of the jurisdiction where the weapon will primarily be maintained. The purpose is to provide notification to law enforcement of the NFA weapon. Adding a person to the gun trust after acquiring the weapon is much simpler. Once the trust has been approved and possesses the weapon, no documentation is required to be submitted to ATF in order to add a new responsible person to the gun trust.
Benefits of an NFA gun trust
One of the benefits of a gun trust include the ease of use among multiple people. If you want to let your son or daughter take your privately-owned suppressor to the range to shoot outside of your presence, that is illegal. A solution is to set up a gun trust and add your loved ones as co trustees. An NFA gun trust allows for the Title II weapon to be owned by the trust, with multiple trustees able to have access to and use of the weapon. With a gun trust, each co-trustee can legally possess and use the weapon. This can also be beneficial in case of incapacity. If you have a gun trust with your loved ones on the trust, then if something happens to you, they will be able to legally handle the NFA weapons in order to move or sell them; otherwise, they cannot legally do so.
Be aware, any person that has access to the weapon is required to have the proper documentation and authorization. Technically, if someone lives in the home where an NFA weapon is stored and exercises control over the premises, he or she can be considered to be in constructive possession of the weapon. Something as simple as your loved one having keys to the room or safe where the weapon is stored can be seen as constructive possession of the weapon and an unlawful transfer. A gun trust will protect your loved ones against such a situation.
Another benefit is the transfer of the weapons after you pass. Like other trusts, one of the main benefits of a gun trust is that it protects privacy. When property passes through probate, an executor is required to file an inventory of the probate estate. This inventory becomes public and anyone can view it. However, firearms in a trust do not pass through probate and will not be listed on the publicly available inventory.
For this reason, owners of large or expensive collections of Title I weapons often consider using a trust. A gun trust will protect the privacy of both the contents of your collection, as well as who is receiving which weapons; there is no reason everyone needs to know who is receiving each of your prized weapons.
Gun trusts can be useful both while you’re alive and after your passing. While you are alive, a gun trust can allow your loved ones to legally handle, move and use your NFA weapons. After your passing, a gun trust can ensure that your weapons are privately passed to your heirs outside of probate, and that your heirs do not inadvertently break the law when receiving the weapons. For more information on the NFA, visit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website.
When thinking about something such as this, you need to get yourself seeing the best probate attorney. Michigan probate lawyer Michael Franklin is one of the attorneys at The Probate ProSM who can provide probate related services on trusts, such as gun trusts. If you are in need of services related to a gun trust, or need any probate related services, call us today at 1-(877)-YOUR-FIRM.
This blog was written by Andrew Diamond of The Probate ProSM.