Does a gun trust need to be part of your estate plan?

Whether you're an avid gun collector who spends weekends at the shooting range or you've inherited a few guns from your grandfather that remain safely locked away in your garage, it's important to include those weapons in your estate plan. The transfer of weapons is heavily regulated. Transferring or transporting them without following state and federal laws can be a felony. That's why estate planning attorneys recommend establishing a gun trust.

A gun trust can be revocable or irrevocable. However, it's generally best to have a revocable gun trust so you can make changes to it should the contents of your gun collection or your wishes for it after your death change.

If you own any guns or accessories that fall under the National Firearms Act (NFA) Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968, a gun trust is particularly important. Title II weapons include things like short-barreled shotguns, fully automatic machine guns and silencers.

Most gun owners have what are considered Title I weapons. These include revolvers, pistols and rifles. Even if you just have a small gun that you keep in your nightstand for protection, it's still wise to include it in a trust to designate whom you want to leave it to or if you want it disposed of after you're gone.

Another important consideration is your own possible incapacitation. A person who's incapacitated can't legally possess a gun. Therefore, by having your weapons listed in your trust, your successor trustee would legally take possession of the weapon(s) and deal with them as you've designated in the trust if you are mentally and/or physically incapacitated.

Anyone you designate to get your guns, whether upon your death or incapacitation, will need to pass a background check before being able to legally take possession of them. Therefore, you wouldn't want to leave them to a child or someone with a criminal record that prohibits gun ownership. It's also probably a good idea to make sure that whomever you're leaving them to wants them.

Make sure that you have a complete inventory of all your guns and accessories as you draft your estate plan. Discuss your wishes for them with your estate planning attorney. They can advise you of the appropriate way to incorporate them in your plan to help avoid legal issues for yourself and/or your heirs.

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