BENEFITS OF A GUN TRUST
Anyone wanting to own special weapons such as machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and grenades must follow certain procedures set up by the National Firearms Act (NFA). NFA items must have a serial number and be registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and can only be possessed and used by the registered owner.
So what happens if the registered owner dies? Who can take possession of the items? The answer is no one. Let’s say an owner dies and his wife inadvertently takes possession of an NFA item while she’s getting rid of his stuff. She could be arrested and spend 10 years in federal prison. Ignorance is not a defense. She can’t simply claim that she didn’t know what that “silly tube-looking thingy” was when she took it and sold it in a garage sale. Or what if daughter drives off in dad’s vehicle after he left his short-barrel rifle in the trunk? What if dad gets sick and otherwise incapacitated and mom has access to his gun safe? Since there is no intent element to violate the NFA, all of these scenarios have potential criminal issues.
Therefore, anyone who owns at least one NFA item needs to set up a gun trust in order to avoid these problems. An NFA gun trust is a special kind of revocable living trust that is created for the purpose of owning NFA Title II firearms. It allows people to purchase, hold, and use firearms and other items that are restricted by the NFA. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to do. There are many benefits. The most important is that it protects innocent people from inadvertently breaking the law. Other benefits include the following:
- It allows more than one person to possess and use the weapons held in trust
- It allows keeping the weapons in the trust after the owner’s death, avoiding the usual transfer requirements and fees
- It extends over generations
- It protects the executor of the owner’s estate from inadvertently breaking laws
- It avoids the need for probate, which saves time and money
- It avoids possible future restrictions on gun transfers
- It avoids the need for a CLEO signature, fingerprints and photographs for approval on purchases, allowing for more privacy
Keep in mind that gun trusts are different from a will or other estate planning documents. Gun trusts are specific to NFA items and must be created in accordance with both federal and state law. Therefore, we recommend you get a knowledgeable attorney to draft your gun trust, such as the attorneys at Dale Carson Law.
QUICK TIP: Never pay for Title II firearms with your own money. ALWAYS use the money from the gun trust. The trustee of the gun trust must open a bank account in the name of the gun trust then deposit money into the gun trust account. All NFA items purchased by the gun trust need to be paid by a check written on the gun trust’s checking account and paid for by the trust’s funds. This avoids any question that the paperwork does not comply with the purchase transaction. Although it’s not required, you are risking potential exposure to criminal charges if the purchase of NFA items does not directly come from the trust’s bank account. If you purchase the item with your personal funds or personal credit card, you are creating multiple NFA violations that are not approved by the BATFE.