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Ready, Aim, Fire!  Make Sure Your Gun Ownership is on Target:  The Case for Gun Trusts

JMF & JHM - Conference Table

By Hoffman & Associates

Did you know that an estimated 43% of U.S. households have at least one firearm[1]?  Or that there are possibly more than 390 million firearms in America, which is more than one per person[2]?

Maybe these statistics don’t surprise you, but what should surprise you is that transferring a firearm in an estate administration proceeding could present problems for the Executor or Trustee.  Consider, for example, Grandpa leaves his hunting rifle collection to his nephew, and the Executor of Grandpa’s estate dutifully collects the rifles, safeguards them, and then makes plans to distribute them to the nephew, but unbeknownst to the Executor, the nephew has a criminal history and is subject to a restraining order.  Distributing these weapons to the nephew could subject the Executor to criminal liability for transferring a firearm to someone who cannot legally possess one.

Additional considerations need to be taken for certain types of firearms listed in the National Firearms act of 1934 (the NFA).  These firearms include machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, silencers, destructive devices and any other weapons.  The NFA requires that these types of weapons be registered in the federal system with a tax stamp before a buyer can take possession.  Further, the NFA places restrictions on interstate transfer of these weapons and transfer to prohibited persons.

Clients owning these more-restricted firearms may benefit from a Gun Trust, sometimes called NFA Firearms Trusts, in which a specially-appointed Trustee, who is knowledgeable about firearms, is appointed to properly maintain, safeguard and custody the weapons.  A Gun Trust can also assist with the interstate transfer of these firearms.

Beyond ensuring the proper ownership and transfer of these types of firearms, Gun Trusts also:

  1. Place control of the firearms with the Grantor gun-owner, and successor fiduciaries, who have the superior knowledge about the firearms;
  2. Provide protection of the firearms (and others) in the event the gun owner loses capacity;
  3. Enhance the privacy of the ownership of these types of weapons by avoiding probate; and
  4. Limit conflicts among beneficiaries receiving all “personal property”.

If firearms are part of your estate, protect these valuable assets and your beneficiaries from criminal liability exposure for unlawful possession or unlawful transfer.  Talk to us about proper considerations in naming beneficiaries and the transfer of these firearms.

For questions regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please contact us at 404-255-7400 or info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.


[1]  https://news.gallup.com/poll/264932/percentage-americans-own-guns.aspx

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/06/19/there-are-more-guns-than-people-in-the-united-states-according-to-a-new-study-of-global-firearm-ownership/