Our gun trust legal services are offered by Thomas G. Walker, a senior partner with Cosho Humphrey, LLP, a Boise, Idaho law firm. Mr. Walker uses the GunDocx® Trust and Legacy Planning System, the nation’s only comprehensive approach to firearms legacy planning that is designed to fill a void in the market.
A gun trust is a special purpose revocable trust that is created to hold only firearms. A properly drafted gun trust helps heirs avoid problems relating to state and federal laws, as improper transfer of a regulated firearm can constitute a criminal offense.
Gun trusts are used primarily for two reasons:
- To legally expedite the transfer of NFA firearms to heirs.
- To provide specific instructions over disposition of the gun collection.
Legacy planning for firearms is an issue that impacts millions of Americans that crosses all boundaries of race, political beliefs, gender, and profession. People may collect guns for self‐defense, target shooting or hunting. Guns may be investments or heirlooms. Most gun owners want their guns to be used responsibly and be passed on to heirs who will appreciate them. Certain firearms and accessories are restricted by federal, state and local laws, and there are many regulations and issues surrounding the passing down of guns to one’s heirs.
Gun 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 includes 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 a 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-abiding 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 a 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. It also allows for 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 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 of 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 ban a wide variety of semi-automatic firearms. Some legislators and pundits have made no secret of their wish to confiscate all firearms and accessories, and barring that, to prohibit the transfer of any “grandfathered” weapons and to require any such weapons to be surrendered to the state at the current owner’s death.
Although the law of Firearms Trusts is still developing, it may be advisable to transfer non-regulated weapons into a trust prior to the enactment of any such legislation. This may avoid a scenario in which your family is forced to surrender your prized collection after you are gone. 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 the most popular option, and is designed for the firearms collector who understands the value of proper planning when dealing with NFA items (suppressors, etc.) as well as non-NFA items (regular rifles, pistols and shotguns), and it will protect everyone that may come in contact with the collection and to avoid the likelihood of an “accidental felony”. The Gold Edition is crafted to assist clients with extensive collections, specific firearms issues, or advanced planning needs.