What Is A Gun Trust?

February 18, 2022

What Is A Gun Trust?

During the estate planning process, it is important to consider all of your assets. While homes, vehicles, and other high-value properties may be the first things to come to mind, gun owners should also consider what will happen to their firearms once the owner has died or become incapacitated. Firearm owners who are in the process of estate planning may wonder about the potential benefits of a gun trust and whether they should set up a gun trust for their weapons.

If you are curious about incorporating a gun trust into your estate plan, the Johnson Law Group is prepared to help you understand your options and develop a plan for your firearms. For many gun owners, a gun trust may be the best way to ensure their firearms are distributed correctly once they have become incapacitated or passed away. You can learn more by contacting our experienced Colorado estate planning lawyers today at (720) 463-4333.

How Does a Gun Trust Work?

A gun trust is a type of revocable trust that can be used to protect the guns of an estate owner. Gun trusts act as legal entities and the trust will become the legal owner of the firearm, or collection of firearms, once the trust is officially signed. The ownership of the firearm or collection is transferred from the individual to the trust itself. The estate owner will designate a trustee who is responsible for administering the trust to designated beneficiaries.

Revocable gun trusts can be modified or canceled at any point before the estate owner’s death. Once the estate owner has passed away, the trust becomes irrevocable. At this point, the alternate administrator will take control of the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. Gun trusts are often used as a way to own certain restricted firearms, as the special provisions of the trust allow for ownership of these weapons.

Adding NFA Guns to a Gun Trust

Many individuals decide to add a gun trust to their estate plan so that they can legally own firearms included in the National Firearms Act (NFA) Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. In fact, gun trusts are sometimes also referred to as NFA trusts for this reason. Types of firearms that are mentioned in this law include:

  • Fully automatic machine guns
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Sawed-off shotguns
  • Firearms that have silencers or suppressors
  • Destructive devices like bazookas or mortars
  • Any other weapons (AOW)

A well-written gun trust will have specific provisions that ensure the trustee and their beneficiaries do not violate any laws, including the NFA. Even an unintentional violation of these laws could lead to the loss of the firearms and criminal penalties, including felony charges, up to 10 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000. Estate owners can protect their beneficiaries by including these firearms in a gun trust that accounts for all federal, state, and local laws.

Reasons to Consider a Gun Trust in Colorado

Gun trusts offer several benefits to gun owners in Colorado and other states. Here are a few of the main reasons to consider incorporating a gun trust into an estate plan:

  • No transfer requirements - Placing firearms into a gun trust can help avoid some of the legal complications commonly encountered when trying to transfer ownership directly. Since the trust acts as the legal owner of the gun, the beneficiaries named in the trust will have access to the guns even if they are not the direct owners themselves. Transfer taxes, ATF transfer documents, fingerprinting and photographing, and other legal stumbling blocks can be avoided.
  • Avoid the probate process - Probate is the legal process of administering the various assets included in a deceased individual’s estate. Going through probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. Assets that are held in trusts are not required to go through probate, which can allow these assets to be passed down to heirs more easily.
  • Access to more than one person - Firearms included under Title II may only be used by the legal owner of the firearm. Thus, if a Title II firearm is included in a gun trust with multiple beneficiaries, all beneficiaries that the owner has designated will be able to use the firearm. Without a gun trust, this would not be possible.
  • Protection for the executor of the estate plan - The person who is designated to handle the distribution of assets in an estate plan is known as an executor. In some cases, executors may not be familiar with gun laws and how to properly distribute the guns of an estate without breaking any laws. A gun trust protects the executor from making serious legal mistakes that could have criminal penalties.

Each estate is unique and there are specific circumstances that must be accounted for depending on the number and type of guns the estate owns. Gun owners who want to ensure their firearms are included in their estate plan in a way that meets all of their needs may benefit from seeking legal guidance from an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Contact a Colorado Estate Planning Lawyer For Legal Guidance on Gun Trusts

Estate planning is not always easy. Ensuring that all of your assets are included in a way that meets your personal needs and the needs of your beneficiaries can be complicated. This is especially true when considering how to incorporate your gun collection into an estate plan due to the complex nature of federal, state, and local laws. Many gun owners find that an experienced Colorado estate planning lawyer can help them navigate these complications.

If you have questions regarding a gun trust or other estate planning matters, the team of veteran Colorado estate planning lawyers at the Johnson Law Group has the experience and knowledge to help answer your concerns and craft an estate plan tailored to your family’s needs and preferences. Contact us today (720) 463-4333 to learn more about how we can help you incorporate a gun trust into your estate plan and other estate planning concerns.

Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
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