Should You Get a Gun Trust?

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9th Sep 2015

If you own firearms, you might have heard people talking about “gun trusts”. These specialized estate planning tools can be a great way to avoid problems that might come with owning or passing along restricted firearms that are subject to strict state and federal regulations, especially after your death. However, not all firearms necessarily need to be placed in a gun trust, so here is a quick overview of how to know if you should get one.

Types of Guns Typically Held in Trust

While a gun trust does not restrict what kinds of firearms you can place in the trust, there are some specific types that gun owners want to make sure and put into these estate planning tools. Generally speaking it is any gun that is regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the revised portion of that law, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (referred to as NFA or Title II firearms). These include machine guns, short-barreled rifles, grenades, short-barreled (sawed-off) shotguns, and silencers. However, since a trust makes ownership transfer so simple, many people opt to put even non-required firearms in these trusts.

Transferring Ownership

NFA weapons have a serial number and must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). Since only the registered owner can possess these weapons, it’s a violation of the law to allow others to use them, or to pass them along to a spouse, family member, or other individual after your death without the proper legal transfer. That’s where a gun trust comes in—these trusts make it easier to transfer ownership so someone who is unfamiliar with the laws of ownership and possession of NFA firearms will not inadvertently breaking the law.

Sharing With Others

It is also a violation of the law to allow others to use NFA or Title II firearms, even with the permission of the person to whom they are legally registered. By setting up a gun trust, you can name one or more trustees who then have a legal ability to possess and use them while you are alive, without transferring full ownership to someone else.

Avoid Transfer Hassles

Without a gun trust, any regulated firearms that you own could be subject to a transfer procedure during which time they are held by the courts and someone who is planning to inherit them may have to go through procedures like filling out BATF transfer forms, receiving permission from the local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), getting fingerprinted a photographed, and paying the transfer tax. A trust removes all these obligations and makes ownership transfer smooth and simple.

To protect your firearms, talk to an experienced Utah attorney about how to set up a gun trust today.