Owning firearms is a right given to you by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even so, you remain responsible for following the laws, rules and regulations that come with that ownership. In fact, in order to own some weapons, you need to receive permission from the federal government.
You follow all the rules and know you won't face any criminal repercussions. However, what happens when you pass away? Do your heirs or beneficiaries have the same protections? No, they don't. In fact, if you leave your weapons to one of your loved ones, they could end up facing felony charges upon taking possession of them.
How do you protect your heirs and beneficiaries?
Fortunately, an estate-planning tool exists that could help keep your loved ones out of trouble: a gun trust. You can make this trust either irrevocable or revocable, but the primary reason for it is to hold title to your weapons. It would be a good idea to transfer title to all of your weapons into this type of trust, but if you own any of the following weapons that fall under the National Firearms Act (NFA) Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968, this trust is for you:
- A short-barreled shotgun
- A fully automatic machine gun
- A suppressor, also called a silencer
Only the registered owner can own and use these weapons. Even allowing someone to fire a few rounds constitutes a felony. Since the gun trust owns the weapons, any trustee or beneficiary may use them. However, anyone with access to the weapons through the trust must go through the required background checks. The good news is that after going through this process, the issue of possibly breaking the law disappears.
Another benefit to a gun trust is protecting the privacy of your family upon your death. Anyone could obtain probate filings. Would you want everyone knowing that you just gifted weapons to your heirs? Property in the trust does not go through this public process, so no one outside of your family needs to know what weapons you own at your death. If you become incapacitated, another trustee could take possession of the firearms without the need for any further legalities.
How do you create one of these trusts?
This article only briefly touches on the requirements for a gun trust. The vetting process by the federal government has specific requirements and takes time. The trust needs to include certain language in order to remain valid and enforceable. Transferring your weapons into it involves paperwork. In order to receive the maximum protections a gun trust has to offer, you may want to work with a Texas estate planning attorney.