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What is a Gun Trust, and Do You Need One?

Even lifetime gun owners may not be familiar with the concept of a gun trust, but it’s an important one for individuals to keep in mind.

During the estate planning process, you may add information to your will about who should receive any and all firearms that you’ve purchased or received as gifts over the years. Unfortunately, this may not be enough to keep you legal and prevent your heirs and assignees from getting hit with heavy tax consequences — or even felony charges. Here’s what you need to know about a gun trust and whether you need one.

What is a Gun Trust?

You can create a gun trust for any type of firearm, but they are specifically recommended for any type of weapon that is classified under Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. This could include everything from guns with a silencer to a sawed-off shotgun or a fully-automatic machine gun — all weapons controlled by the National Firearms Act. The transport and ownership of these weapons is tightly controlled, making a gun trust crucial for your estate.

The gun trust allows for an orderly transfer of ownership upon your death to the individual or individuals stated in your paperwork. The heirs or assignees will still be required to go through a thorough background check, but once that process is complete they are a full and legal owner of the weapon.

Who Needs a Gun Trust?

If you’re simply passing down a few old .22 caliber rifles, you probably don’t need a gun trust. These basic and lower-powered weapons are not currently covered until Title II laws of restricted firearms, making it much easier to pass them along to others to use and own. With a Title II weapon, however, it’s not even legal to allow someone to borrow the weapon if you’re shooting for fun!

A gun trust doesn’t necessarily have to wait until you’re doing estate planning, however. You can also use a gun trust to share ownership of a Title II weapon. This allows each of the individuals named in the trust to legally wield the weapon. Before the trust can take effect, each person named in the legal document will have to undergo the same level of scrutiny as the original purchaser. The government requires a minimum of background checks, identification requirements, filing paperwork with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, fingerprinting and finally paying the several hundred dollar registration fee to the government.

There are times when a gun trust certainly makes sense for you and your family, but the majority of non-Title II firearm owners may not see the value of taking this step. There is quite a bit of additional time and effort required in order to lawfully transfer ownership of this type of weapon. It is crucial that you research your firearm fully if you have any questions about whether it is covered until the Title II laws.

~ Firearm Daily


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