The disposition of a firearm at death is not as easy as putting the firearm on a statement of tangible personal property or leaving the firearm to a traditional terminating revocable trust. Traditional methods of transferring unique assets to an irrevocable may not be sufficient for a firearm.
The Uniform Trust Code does not specifically address assets such as firearms. Additionally, state trust laws are silent on the ownership of firearms. However, state laws are not silent on the overall disposition and ownership of firearms. In addition, there are important federal statutes to consider, such as the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act. For those looking into basic gun and firearm ownership laws, it might seem a daunting task to review such a numerous collection of legal text. What is the everyday firearm owner or prospective owner to do?
Creation of a Gun Trust
Clients can safely and legally dispose of a firearm to a beneficiary at death using a gun trust. The contents of a typical gun trust are no different than any other revocable trust, except for references and terms related to firearms and the Gun Control Act.
The grantor (or gun owner) creates a trust during his lifetime for his benefit, naming himself as a trustee. The trust should make specific references to an intent of complying with not only the Gun Control Act, but also the National Firearms Act. It is also important to note in the trust’s statement of intent that the trust is created specifically to comply with local, state and federal law on firearms in its administration and interpretation.
In order to properly accomplish its purposes, the gun trust should have successor trustees listed whom are eligible to own firearms themselves, in accordance with the Gun Control Act. The trust should contain automatic removal language that indicates if a successor trustee, who, at the time he is to become trustee, is an ineligible trustee in accordance with the provisions of the Gun Control Act, he is deemed to have predeceased the grantor. It is recommended that at least two qualifying successor trustees be named. Instead of naming successor trustees, a trust protector or trustee selector could be named in the trust to select successor trustees who are eligible to serve in accordance with the Gun Control Act. It is the author’s experience that corporate fiduciaries are unwilling to serve as trustee of a gun trust.