Gun safety is the paramount concern for those of you who own firearms, and those of you who know a gun owner. But how do we know that the people who will inherit a firearm are qualified to do so? Here is your solution to uphold the safety standards of firearm owners and alleviate the concerns of those who know them.
A gun trust is one of the tools in the estate planning toolkit that maintains firearm safety standards, and you may want to consider using this type of trust if you are a firearm owner.
Many of you have probably never heard of this invaluable tool but I believe it should definitely be used more for everyone’s best interests.
Firearms transferring to your beneficiaries after your passing raises two distinct problems.
First, if you own a firearm we know that you are concerned about safety. But what about the people who will inherit your firearm? I have handled numerous matters where a firearm owner made a general bequest of their assets to their family meaning that people without any training suddenly became firearm owners.
Had they considered this issue for even a moment they would have wanted to make sure that before any person owned the weapons they would have the appropriate training and licensing to own a firearm responsibly. Thankfully, this is exactly what a gun trust does.
The second concern is that there can be very serious legal ramifications for beneficiaries receiving restricted forearms from a decedent’s estate.
Title II of the Gun Control Act amended the National Firearms Act (NFA), and it established a restricted class of firearms and accessories. These would include short barreled rifles, machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, and silencers or suppressors. It is illegal to own a Title II firearm if a person has not received all required licensing and training.
Therefore, a family member could be unwittingly placed in violation of this federal law when they inherit the restricted firearm under a traditional estate plan.
Let’s talk about how a gun trust can help
How a Gun Trust Works
Gun trusts work very well in a post-death firearm transfer situation for two reasons.
First, like all trusts, the property in the trust is owned by the trust and any conditions you pick can would have to be fulfilled before a beneficiary can take personal ownership of, or use, the firearms.
This means that firearm owners can insure that the beneficiaries they choose will live up to the same exacting safety standards the firearm owner observed in life by requiring any designated training the firearm owner chooses before the beneficiary can use or own the firearms. There could also be any other criteria the firearm owner wishes to put in place such as the beneficiary cannot have any convictions or must be gainfully employed.
The second reason gun trusts also work is that they insure that no beneficiary will be put in accidental violation of Title II of the Gun Control Act by becoming owner of any restricted weapon before obtaining all appropriate licensing and registration requirements.
Since the trust would technically own the weapon until all conditions are met, no individual is the owner and no one would be breaking any laws.
One requirement to keep in mind that further insures everyone’s safety is that any trustee that is going to handle the Title II weapons that are held by a gun trust must go through the certification process. This would also apply to the final beneficiary of the firearms.
Choose the Trustee and Beneficiary Wisely
You should be very discerning if you create a gun trust as part of your estate plan. The trustee or trustees should be responsible in a general sense, and they should have impeccable backgrounds. They should also understand how to safely handle the guns that are in the collection.
This would also apply to the final beneficiary that will ultimately assume ownership of the weapons.
These are the types of issues that you can go over with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that all of your concerns are heard and addressed.
How a Gun Trust Protects You During Your Life
Just under 13 percent of senior citizens contract Alzheimer’s disease, and the figure is over 30 percent for those that are 85 years of age and older.
It is inadvisable for you to own a firearm if you should become cognitively impaired. Furthermore, it is illegal for a cognitively impaired person to possess a Title II weapon.
To account for this possibility, you can empower a successor trustee to administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.
If you ever speak to me about this I will tell you how we dealt with this issue for my own father and how it has shaped my philosophy and zeal for gun trusts.
Attend a Free Webinar!
If you are interested in learning more about estate planning and nursing home asset protection, we have some great opportunities coming up in the near future. Attorney Cornelius J. O’Reilly is holding a series of webinars, and the sessions are being offered free of charge.
You can come away with a great deal of useful information if you join us, and don’t have to go anywhere to participate. To see the dates and obtain registration information, visit our webinar schedule page. You can send us a message to set up a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 332-456-0500.