The Convenience of Gun Trusts

Richard Garrett Ham Jr.

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Estate Planning Attorney

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Posted about 1 year ago. 0 helpful votes

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With the recent controversy surrounding gun legislation and gun control proposals, gun trusts have become more well-known. In this guide, I will discuss these types of trusts and the benefit they provide those seeking to acquire weapons governed by the National Firearms Act, otherwise known as Title II weapons.

Acquiring Weapons Through a Gun Trust

Federal law requires those seeking to take possession of Title II weapons to submit an application to the ATF along with $200. When an individual does this, he or she must obtain the consent of the local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO), generally the sheriff or local police chief, as well as fingerprints and a photograph.

Trusts, however, are exempt from these last two requirements, making them particularly valuable for acquiring Title II weapons. Since the CLEO is not required to sign the application, a gun trust is often the only way to acquire a Title II weapon in some jurisdictions.

While the trust actually owns the weapons, trust's creator can retain the marks of ownership, including the right to possess and use the weapon.

Transferring Trust Property

Weapons held in a gun trust are easier to pass down, as another individual may be given the right to possess and use the weapon simply by naming that individual a trustee of the trust. Since ownership remains with the trust, the administrative burdens of transferring Title II weapons are avoided. An individual holding a Title II weapon wishing to transfer the weapon to a child or other party will have to go through the initial acquisition process all over again. This is therefore a significant advantage of the gun trust.

Trustees

Though they make the process easier, gun trusts are not a legal loophole through which otherwise ineligible individuals may acquire Title II weapons, such as machine guns or suppressors. Trustees and beneficiaries must still qualify to possess the weapon. So, no convicted felons, mentally incompetents, domestic batterers, or dishonorably discharged individuals may serve as trustees of a gun trust.

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