Five Benefits of a “Gun Trust”

Have you heard of a gun trust before?  Gun trusts deal with ownership of firearms that are subject to stringent federal and state regulations. These trusts make it easier to possess and handle firearms after the owner passes away and protect heirs from unintentionally breaking the law. Let’s dive into the details.

Weapons Held in Trust

Gun trusts are normally used for firearms that are covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and its subsequent revision, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. They include suppressors/silencers, fully automated machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, large caliber weapons and explosives, e.g. grenades, and a broad category known as A.O.W. (stands for “Any Other Weapon” – think unusual items like a pen gun or knife gun).

NFA weapons need to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE, or sometimes also known as “ATF”), and may only be possessed and used by the registered owner. State laws can apply further restrictions.  For example, some states outlaw weapons such as silencers/suppressors and machine guns.

Gun Trust Benefits

Gun trusts may have several benefits, five of which are covered below.

  1. More than one person may possess and use the weapon. If a gun trust is properly set up to allow for beneficiaries and/or co- or successor trustees, other individuals may be legally be allowed to possess or use the firearm held in trust.  This may help the owner and other loved ones and friends from committing an “accidental felony”.
  2. The gun may be kept in trust even after the owner’s death.  This enables the grantor/owner to pass on weapons, e.g. a collection of firearms, in the manner they desire.  It also may provide the heirs/beneficiaries all of the same gun trust benefits that the grantor/owner enjoyed during his/her life.
  3. Avoid the CLEO (Chief Law Enforcement Officer) signature requirement.  When a person seeks to acquire an NFA item individually, he/she is required to visit their local CLEO’s office for approval and fingerprinting.  Although the future of this requirement is somewhat unclear, for now, those who desire to acquire an NFA item using a gun trust rather than individually avoid this requirement.  Note that proposed Rule 41P may change things in this regard, so those thinking about setting up a gun trust are best served by doing it ASAP and subsequently submitting their transfer forms to BATFE.
  4. The executor of the estate has an easier job. Executors who are not familiar with the rules surrounding NFA and other weapons could accidentally break criminal laws by sending the gun to a state where it is prohibited, giving it to someone who may not legally own it, or transferring it without following the proper steps beforehand. With a gun trust, the trustee is in charge of trust assets, not the executor. (It is therefore important to name a trustee who is familiar with state and federal weapons laws or who at least recognizes the need to call a qualified attorney for advice.)
  5. Avoid probate. Firearms held by a trust do not need to go through probate at the owner’s death.

Setting Up a Gun Trust

Gun trusts can be set up with assistance from an attorney experienced in state and federal weapons laws. If you’d like assistance with this process, give us a call today at 772-324-9050!

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.