Everyone knows about “Wills and Trusts” when it comes to estate planning. While many might not know the difference between the two, we all know one or the other is needed to help someone properly transfer their assets to their family and friends. But does this hold true for firearms?
ABSOLUTELY!! One of the biggest issues gun owners face is the lack of planning for how they are to be managed, while they are alive or after they are deceased. But what most don’t understand is that firearms, aka guns, are a very different situation. The issue is pretty simple; firearms carry felony penalties in many cases when handled improperly as opposed to furniture or other assets. Therefore they need to have special treatment. This requires proper planning.
There are Four main areas to consider when it comes to firearms planning…
- Place ultimate control with the grantor (who has superior knowledge) – the person who is granting the future ownership of the firearms is the one person who knows the most about the firearms and what they want to have happen. Firearms law is complex and needs proper planning since this may require court intervention up on their death. If someone doesn’t understand firearms and is in a position to handle this situation, it is important to have a solid plan to execute to avoid potential felony situations.
- Provide Incapacity protection – if the firearms owner becomes incapacitated, it makes managing these very difficult if planning hasn’t been done in advance. No one knows if or when this could happen so planning ahead in this area is vitally important. The issues that present themselves can sometimes include:
- Lack of knowledge about their firearms
- Treating guns as just another asset
- Selling firearms when not appropriate
- Permitting use of firearms that could create civil and criminal liability
- Other areas of misunderstanding
- Enhance privacy and avoid probate – if the appropriate documents are in place (such as a revocable trust) it could help maintain privacy and avoid probate administration. Putting the right documents together to help ensure this can happen is a big reason proper planning can play a key role with firearms.
- Control conflicts and provide clear guidance for dispute resolution – using such tools as a revocable trust specifically oriented towards firearms gives a trustee all the powers necessary to administer a trust upon the death of the gun owner. But properly drafting this trust to deal with conflicts that may occur at time of death is critical in the planning efforts. This helps avoid disputes and reduces the emotional situation that often occurs.
Planning is probably the most important thing any gun owner can do to help his/her family and friends deal with their firearms collection (could be a single gun or a massive collection) upon passing. While it is a complex area, there are ways to navigate these waters and make it a win-win for everyone.