Gun Trusts: An Overview

An increasing number of gun owners, with help from their attorneys, are creating legal trusts to buy silencers, fully-automatic machine guns, or any other items or weapon whose sale is restricted by federal gun law, otherwise known as the National Firearms Act “NFA.” These gun trusts subvert the requirement to obtain local law enforcement approval or even undergo criminal background checks. This trust goes around much of the red tape and problems associated with personal ownership of NFA weapons.

These gun trusts allow the owners of the regulated firearms to use and share them legally with family members and to pass them down through the generations. These trusts are gaining in popularity because they offer legal protection from possible future laws that may ban the possession or sale of the firearms.

Benefits of a Gun Trust

Using a gun trust to transfer ownership of your weapons can avoid some of the federal transfer requirements and accomplish the following goals as well:

Gun trusts avoid probate. The firearms are held by a trust, therefore, they do not need to go through probate at your death.

Gun trust may avoid possible future restrictions on gun transfers. Although no such legislation has been proposed, some gun advocates fear that someday it will be illegal to leave certain firearms to inheritors or transfer them during life. The hope is holding the guns in a gun trust will let help them get around any limitations if those limitations are enacted.

Gun trusts allow more than one person to possess and use the weapons held in trust. You may want to name more than one person as trustee because each trustee will have the right to possess or use the trust’s firearms. If you do not, only the registered owner can possess or use NFA weapons.

Gun Trusts keep the gun in the trust even after the current owner’s death, avoiding the usual transfer requirements. Once the trust is created and funded – the transfer firearms to it – you can arrange for the trust to stay in existence even after your death. The trustees and beneficiaries of the trust would have whatever rights you grant them in the terms of the trust. Because the firearm stays in the trust at your death, the transfer procedure is avoided. That means your inheritors don’t have to pay $200 transfer tax, file an ATF transfer form, receive permission from the local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), and get fingerprinted and photographed.

Gun trusts help the executor. The executor or administrator of your estate – the person who is responsible for gathering your assets, paying your debts, and distributing what’s left – may not know about or understand with the rules about ownership and possession of NFA and other weapons. An executor could violate criminal laws by transferring a weapon without going through the proper procedure, taking or sending it to a state where it is prohibited, or giving it to a person who is legally prohibited from owning it. When firearms are in a trust, the executor is not involved; the trustee is in charge. You can name a trustee who is well-versed in state and federal gun laws.