The last article in this two-part series addressed the importance of proper management of firearms when a gun owner becomes incapacitated or dies. This article discusses gun trusts as an effective solution.
John owns a collection of antique rifles passed down from his father. He names Daughter in his will as personal representative. Daughter wants nothing to do with his firearms; nor does she approve of her minor children inheriting them. John wants to leave his collection to Daughter, and he hopes the grandchildren will grow to appreciate the heirlooms, some of which are valuable. How can a gun trust help him? Here are some major benefits.
Prevent unlawful possession of firearms. It is unlawful for an incapacitated person to own firearms; if such person’s relative or attorney-in-fact takes possession of them, they are in danger of committing a crime. A gun owner’s death presents the same peril. With firearms held in a trust, the trustees can ensure continuity of lawful ownership.
It is unlawful for an incapacitated person to own firearms; if such person’s relative or attorney-in-fact takes possession of them, they are in danger of committing a crime.
Select suitable trustees. Trustees knowledgeable about gun laws, such as permit, background check, notification, and licensing requirements, can take possession of firearms and ensure their proper use, transport, and transfer. A gun trust is particularly useful for weapons classified under the National Firearms Act, which can be transported only by the registered owner.
Facilitate orderly transfer. The trust can prevent disqualified beneficiaries [e.g., unlawful users of controlled substances (marijuana is illegal under federal law)] from inheriting firearms and can set appropriate times for certain beneficiaries, such as minors, to inherit them. In case a beneficiary fails the background check required to take possession of a firearm, it is important to name contingent beneficiaries.
Avoid probate of firearms. Firearms held in a trust are not subject to probate. Although probate is usually not onerous in Massachusetts, some gun owners and their families prefer to skip court procedures and preserve the privacy of gun ownership.
John establishes a gun trust to hold his firearms and retains ownership as co-trustee with Nephew. If John becomes incapacitated or dies, Nephew continues to manage the firearms as trustee. The trust incorporates John’s wishes: certain rifles remain in trust until the grandchildren mature and choose to accept them; others must be sold with the proceeds distributed to Daughter. John keeps Daughter as personal representative to administer all other aspects of his estate.
If you own guns, you have a great responsibility to ensure their appropriate possession and use for the safety of your family and community at large. Your estate plan should include careful instructions for how your guns are managed in the event of your incapacity and death.