There’s a widespread misconception that people who collect valuable or antique firearms or those with specific NFA-regulated firearms (fully automatic machine guns, noise suppressors, etc.) are the only gun owners who must give special consideration to the impact of firearms upon their estate planning. Although those collectors certainly need advanced planning, there are many more individuals whose basic estate plans should address “non-exotic” gun ownership.
Any firearm (e.g., a simple revolver, semi-automatic pistol, hunting rifle or a shotgun) can present problems for an executor or trustee. The experience and knowledge of the right estate planning attorney can help reduce the risks associated with such situations. Conversely, without special care, things could go very wrong. As an example, consider the following scenario:
While administering Grandpa’s estate the executor, an old family friend, distributes Grandpa’s prized Winchester rifle to a grandson, who is the beneficiary. The executor does not know that the grandson/beneficiary is subject to a restraining order. The executor may be prosecuted for transferring of a firearm to someone who cannot lawfully possess one. Under federal law, the executor could face a large personal fine and imprisonment. Finally, grandpa’s prized rifle also may be subject to confiscation.
As this scenario illustrates, the consequences of insufficient planning and oversight in the transfer of a firearm can be extreme. How do we mitigate the risks? At Anderson Estate Planning, PLLC, we can incorporate special provisions in your estate plan to ensure a smooth transfer of the firearm(s), while meeting all federal and state legal requirements. Such provisions should include specific instructions to the trustee to verify that the beneficiary is a lawful firearm recipient (a signed and sworn affidavit that he/she meets both federal and state requirements to lawfully possess a firearm).
You also may wish to consider a Firearms Trust or Gun Trust (also called an NFA Firearms Trusts or an NFA Gun Trusts). This strategy allows the trust to own and receive the firearms and establish a qualified trustee to maintain custody of the firearms. The trustee is typically an experienced gun owner who can properly maintain and securely store those firearms.
Any experienced gun owner will tell you, that the cardinal rule of gun handling is “safety first.” That same “safety first” principle applies to the transfer of weapons from one owner to another. There are many benefits of a gun trust. Please contact us to schedule a meeting to discuss the importance of these special provisions in your estate planning documents. Safety, security, peace of mind—it‘s all in the planning.