Your guns are your pride and joy. As a hunter, collector, or competitive shooter, you want to protect your guns during and after your lifetime and ensure that they can be seamlessly inherited by your chosen heirs. A Texas Gun Trust can help you accomplish these goals, particularly if you own Title II firearms that are restricted by the National Firearms Act (NFA). We explain how Gun Trusts work and how we can help you set one up if it’s right for you.
What Is a Gun Trust?
Like any other type of Revocable Living Trust, a Gun Trust is a vehicle for holding title to your property—in this case, your firearms. Once the guns are retitled in the name of the Trust, ownership of the guns transfers to the Trust. When setting up the Trust, you will name the beneficiaries you want to inherit each gun upon your passing and a Trustee to carry out your wishes. During your lifetime as the Trust maker, you control the property and can make any changes you want to make to the Trust, including selling the guns, adding more guns, changing the Trustee, and choosing new heirs.
Upon your passing, the Trustee will ensure that the guns held in the Trust pass quickly and seamlessly to your beneficiaries. Guns held in the Trust will not have to go through Probate, meaning information about them will remain private, and your heirs will not have to pay a transfer tax or legal fees. A Gun Trust also keeps decisions about your firearms between you and your heirs and out of Court.
Why Are Gun Trusts Important for Title II Firearms?
Gun Trusts are sometimes referred to as NFA Trusts because they can be written to protect your heirs from violating NFA provisions if you are passing on Title II firearms. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the following weapons are classified as Title II:
- A shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length
- A weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length
- A rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length
- A weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length
- Any other weapon
- A fully automatic machine gun
- Any silencer
- A destructive device
If you own Title II weapons legally, you are registered as an owner and understand that your heirs must be registered before they can possess a Title II firearm. This can create problems when the firearms are passed on through a traditional Will. However, a Gun Trust can become a registered Title II owner, allowing the Trustee to legally possess the firearms until the beneficiary can become registered. Since the Trust does not have to be Probated, the existence of these weapons and the names of heirs will remain private. Guns that are not classified as Title II can also be held by the Trust, ensuring that collections can remain intact.
Designing a Gun Trust as Part of a Larger Estate Plan
If you are a gun owner, you have probably seen Gun Trust documents online or at gun shows, or a gun shop owner as offered to set one up for you. However, it is important that you work with a lawyer to set up a legally binding Trust that accomplishes your goals: protecting your collection, preserving your privacy, making sure your inheritance wishes are honored, and keeping the Trust updated. If you have other valuable assets, you will want to make sure that the Gun Trust works with the rest of your Estate Plan.
Trust Ross & Shoalmire for Sound Advice About Gun Trusts
Not every gun owner in Texas needs a Gun Trust, and we will not push it on you if we don’t think you need it. However, if we believe that a Gun Trust is the best way to protect your valuable property, we will make sure it will serve its intended purpose and will stand up after your passing. Reach out to our Texarkana office to talk to an experienced Estate Planning attorney about your firearm collection today.