Gun Trusts: A Way to Avoid Unknown and Unintended Risks

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America leads the world in gun ownership per capita with 90 guns existing per 100 residents. According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of individuals age 65+ own at least one gun. Some of the guns that are owned are classified as “Title II Firearms” and are regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA). Examples of Title II Firearms include machine guns, short-barreled shotguns or rifles, and silencers. Most people are aware that ownership of such weapons is often legal but requires a federal license. But what they may not know is that transferring these guns to any person, including a family member, not authorized to own them could result in criminal penalties. As the Baby Boomers look for ways to transfer ownership of these types of weapons, they may want to consider using a Gun Trust.

A Gun Trust is a type of revocable trust. Typically, revocable trusts operate somewhat like a will; they transfers assets at death, but unlike a will, trust assets pass without going through probate court, saving time, money and retaining a level of privacy. A Gun Trust is different from a typical revocable trust in that it allows for multiple trustees, is intended to last for more than one generation and must be created using the applicable state and federal weapon laws. Once created, a Gun Trust offers some very appealing aspects to Title II gun owners looking to simplify ownership, accessibility and transferability of their Title II Firearms, which includes:

The Trust Owns the Firearm(s): When an individual wishes to purchase a Title II Firearm, they must go through a number of steps that often include fingerprinting, photographs and approval from their chief law enforcement officer. But when an NFA-compliant Gun Trust owns the guns, no fingerprints or photographs are required (which can save time and money). Furthermore, a Gun Trust may offer a level of privacy as in some states the chief law enforcement officer will not be given notice as to the identity of the trustees.

Avoid Unknowing Violation of NFA: In the event of death or incapacity, your loved ones will likely interact with these firearms by either trying to transfer, sell or inherit them. In doing so, they may be unwittingly in violation of the NFA and face criminal proceedings. An NFA-compliant Gun Trust can allow you to presently determine who will have access to the guns and create dispositive instructions that are already designed to be NFA compliant.

Multiple Individuals May Be Granted Access to the Firearms: Since it is the trust that owns the guns, and not you or another individual, it is not necessary to become licensed to access these firearms. Additionally, since multiple people may be named as trustees and granted access to the firearms in the trust, you can decide to name younger generations that will survive you that can continue to have access to the guns.

An NFA-compliant Gun Trust can provide ways to own and access Title II firearms to yourself and others both today and even after your death. Perhaps more importantly, a Gun Trust can protect loved ones from inadvertently violating the law by predesigning how you will transfer your guns after your death.  Should a Gun Trust seem appropriate for your situation, it would be very prudent to consult with an attorney familiar with all the applicable state and federal laws who can help you build your Gun Trust.

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