Firearms Trust Planning

gun copy

What is a Gun Trust?

Firearms Trusts were developed to make the purchase, ownership, and inheritance of firearms covered by the National Firearms Act (“NFA”) easier. The NFA regulates “Title II” weapons and include machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, suppressors, destructive devices, and Any Other Weapons (AOWs).

Title II weapons can be acquired individually or through an entity such as trust. Individuals must submit fingerprints, a photograph, pay for the $200 tax stamp, and obtain permission from the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in the jurisdiction in which they reside. In some jurisdictions the sheriff will refuse to sign off on any such purchases as a matter of policy. Such blanket policies prevent law-abding citizens from being able to obtain these weapons at all. Once approved, only the approved individual may hold or use the weapons. Violations can result in 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

By creating a firearms trust, some of these barriers to ownership can be surmounted. Trusts may legally own such firearms, and bypass requirements for a photograph, fingerprints, and the requirement that a CLEO approve the purchase of the regulated firearm or device. Trusts can be designed to allow multiple individuals to utilize the firearm.

Beyond acquisition, a Firearms Trust may have additional benefits- it is designed for the sole purpose of acquiring, holding, and eventually distributing regulated and regulated weapons, ammunition, and accessories. Firearms trusts also help owners of weapons and devices regulated under the NFA from subjecting their family to “accidental felonies” upon their death. Although the owner may be registered to own such weapons, their family members or executors are not, and in most instances possession of these kinds of weapons without appropriate registration is a felony. a properly drafted Firearms trust will allow the beneficiaries o the trust to receive the weapons and other items without unintentionally committing a felony. Because items contained within a trust avoid probate, the contents of the trust and how and to whom they are distributed will remain totally private.

Not Just for NFA Weapons

All firearms owners should consider establishing a Firearms Trust to hold their weapons collection, even if they don’t own any regulated weapons. Recently, Congress has taken up legislation to prohibit the transfer (including the sale, gift, loan, or even momentary holding) of firearms without a background check. This proposed legislation would make criminals of gun owners engaged in ordinary, noncriminal activities. For more information, see our recent blog post on this subject.

Although this is still a developing are of law, it may be advisable to transfer non-regulated weapons into a trust prior to the enactment of any such legislation. This may allow you to avoid a scenario in which you and your friends and family inadvertently break these new laws regarding transfers. Proper planning can allow you to establish a legacy of responsible firearm ownership and use for generations to come.

An Important Part of a More Comprehensive Estate Plan

We offer two levels of firearms trust planning.
  • The Silver edition is our most popular trust at $500 and can hold both NFA and non-regulated firearms, has language and instructions for adding additional trustees and beneficiaries, is designed to avoid the “accidental” felony, and comes with detailed instructions on how to manage the trust.
  • We also offer a Gold edition trust that includes some more comprehensive planning- this would be appropriate for extensive collections and advanced planning needs. The Gold trust starts at $1000 and can be more expensive depending on the level of complexity.

Also, please note that we work with clients throughout the State of Alabama, and can draft your trust at our office here in Huntsville and mail it to you to be executed anywhere in the State.

Often times, clients know they need to put proper planning in place but procrastinate in doing so. We want all of our clients to have comprehensive planning in place, which is why we offer a free Silver Edition Firearms Trust to our clients who engage us in other comprehensive trust-based planning. Contact us for more details about this offer!

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