The typical estate plan provides for tax saving strategies, probate avoidance and beneficiary designation of various assets. However, federal and state regulations require that firearms be carefully addressed to avoid unintended consequences in the future.
Your gun collection may include weapons used for sport, self-defense or investment purposes. It probably includes family heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation. Transfers of many firearms and accessories are restricted and subject to very specific requirements. To keep your gun collection in your family, you must ensure that all transfers comply with the National Firearms Act, as well as state laws where you and your beneficiaries reside.
The establishment of a revocable living “gun trust,” which holds only your firearm collection, allows you to retain ownership and control of your collection during your lifetime while providing for the disposition of your guns to your intended beneficiaries. During your lifetime, you remain the trustee and beneficiary of the gun trust, and appoint a successor trustee and lifetime and remainder beneficiaries. Because the trust is revocable, you are free to make changes or revoke it at any time.
As with most living trusts, a gun trust enables you to provide detailed instructions regarding the disposition of your assets upon your death. However, if you use a gun trust to own and transfer Title II firearms, you are not required to obtain the approval of your local CLEO; the transfer application may be sent directly to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Additionally, firearms owned by a properly drafted gun trust, may be legally possessed by the trustee and may be used by any beneficiary under the authority of, or in the presence of, the trustee. This greatly simplifies and expedites the transfer, and saves your beneficiaries from any unintended violations of the National Firearms Act.
Boilerplate trusts are available but typically fail to specifically address the ownership of firearms. A properly drafted gun trust will include guidance or limitations for the successor trustee, to ensure he or she does not inadvertently commit a felony when owning, using or transferring the weapons.