What happens to firearms in an estate?

Yee Law Group Inc. > What happens to firearms in an estate?

Estate Planning Lawyer Roseville, CA

Many people are lawful firearms owners. They may own guns for personal protection, as part of a collection, or for outdoor huntings. The legal gun owners may take the necessary precautions to ensure their registration and licensure is accurate and up to date. They may store the firearms properly and treat them with the proper safety measures. However, when firearms are included in an estate, questions could be raised.

If you are the personal representative or executor of an estate, it will be your responsibility to ensure firearms are handled within the scope of the state and federal laws. In general, whenever firearms are included in a will, trust, or estate planning tool, you should consult an estate planning lawyer for advice.

Potential Problems With Passing on Firearms in an Estate

Unlike jewelry, art, or other assets, you may be be unable to give a beneficiary a firearm, even if it has been written in a legal will. Some situations would be illegal, for example, if the beneficiary was a convicted felon. Should the personal representative of the estate distribute a firearm to a convicted felony, who is also a beneficiary, he or she could be criminally prosecuted. Likewise, if the personal representative is a convicted felon, they cannot distribute firearms to any beneficiaries. If any of the above situations apply, an estate planning lawyer should be consulted as soon as possible.

Careful Considerations

As an estates’ representative, you should take time to review all estate planning documents. Look for a gun trust, or another document that has to do with firearms. Various state and federal laws regulate the sale and transfer of all guns; therefore, the gifting process of firearms is rather complicated.

If you handover a gun in the wrong way or to someone who is not legally able to have a gun, you, as the personal representative, could be liable. Furthermore, if there is no plan on how the firearms should be distributed, they must be disposed of in a certain way.

The National Firearms Act

If the firearm, or firearm accessory, is covered by the National Firearms Act, all federal rules associated with this act must be followed. These rules pertain to the transfer of the gun and any transfer taxes. Examples of firearms and accessories included in the NFA are machine guns, grenades, and silencers.

All firearms in the NFA must be registered with the federal government. Whenever a transfer takes place, the government must approve the transfer and registration. If you are the representative, you will need to complete a special form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The above process is complex which is why many people choose to create a gun trust. This special type of trust allows multiple people to possess and use the firearms included in the trust. These firearms are owned by the trust, and the possession of them can move swiftly to a beneficiary following the current possessors death. The formal transfer process does generally not need to be completed. If you find a gun trust in an estate, ask an estate planning lawyer whether or not it is valid and intact.

Legally Transferring the Firearm

When the decedent possessed a gun that was not regulated by the NFA, the transfer to a named beneficiary is often easier. Before the transfer can begin, the following must be considered:

  • The beneficiary is at least 18 years of age
  • The beneficiary has obtained to proper license
  • The beneficiary is not prohibited to own a firearm

Some states do not require a gun owner to register certain guns, like rifles and shotguns; however, it may be a good idea.

Final Considerations

The following are some final considerations that may or may not apply to your situation, depending on what state the firearm is registered, or located, in.

  • If a state makes it a felony to possess a firearm without a license or registration, the personal representative may only be able to possess it for a short period of time in order to sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of it. After this time has passed, the firearm may need to be transferred to law enforcement who will release it upon request, or destroy it.
  • Some states require a representative to file a separate inventory of any firearm and firearm accessory. Usually this inventory is not made public.
  • Beneficiaries should be told about the inheritance of a firearm as soon as possible so as to obtain the necessary license, permits, and/or registration.

Whether you are a gun owner or are a representative of an estate that involve firearms, you may want to speak with an estate planning lawyer Roseville, CA trusts at Yee Law Group who can help you to remain compliant with all laws.