Establishing Gun Trusts

In previous posts, we have discussed the use of trusts to pass down pieces of art and other collectibles to your heirs. However, special considerations come into play when estate planning involves the inheritance of guns. Regardless of whether it is an antique gun from the Revolutionary War, your grandparent’s service gun from his time in war, or a current collection of guns for hunting or home protection, gifting firearms comes with a set of unique challenges. However, some estate planning attorneys are solving these issues through the use of a new planning tool, the “gun trust.”

What is a Gun Trust?

A gun trust is typically set up as a revocable living trust. It is made specifically to transfer firearms, with the gun owner set up as the trustee. Gun trusts are most commonly used to transfer firearms that come with federal restrictions, such as guns with silencers. This is because the trust can cut down on some of the paperwork needed to possess, transfer, and own these types of guns. However, a growing number of people are now using gun trusts to pass down a deceased loved one’s personal collection.

Benefits of a Gun Trust

One benefit of a gun trust is that the person named as executor or trustee can have a working knowledge of state and federal gun laws, safety and storage protocols, and how to best liquidate a collection. In addition, any successor trustee named to the gun trust can be well-versed in firearms before inheriting control of the trust.

Another benefit of a gun trust is that the owner of the collection can state with specificity how the collection should be handled. In one case, the owner made a list of collectors that he knew would properly value the collection and instructed family to only interact with them when liquidating the guns.

Having a gun trust can also ensure that the beneficiaries are legally allowed to own or access the firearms. The trustee or successor trustee can check that all beneficiaries clear the restrictions of the U.S. Gun Control Act or enact contingency plans in the case that a beneficiary can no longer legally possess the collection.

One final benefit of a gun trust is avoiding the probate system. When a firearm collection has to go through the probate court, it and the beneficiaries involved become part of the public record. For collectors with particularly impressive gun collections, privacy also gives an added layer of protection against thieves.

When Isn’t a Gun Trust for You?

A gun trust does not always make sense for a client who wishes to pass down firearms. If your heirs are adept at firearms and know the laws surrounding them, a gun trust may not be for you. In addition, if the collection is not very valuable you do not have to worry as much about the guns going through probate and becoming part of the public record. Finally, if the guns do not come with federal restrictions, the benefits of a gun trust are also diminished.

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