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Handling Firearms and Special Assets in Trust or Estate Administration

by | Aug 15, 2021 | estate planning

Some additional considerations need to be addressed when a trust or estate contains firearms or other similar special assets. There are certain laws to follow regarding how firearms and weapons are handled during trust or estate administration.

If you are an administrator of a trust or estate involving firearms and weapons, it is beneficial to contact an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney with experience in this area can help you make sure that you are accurately following California law when carrying out your duties.

The attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver have many years of experience handling trusts and estates that include firearms and weapons. We can help you navigate these legal issues and successfully carry out your duties as a trust or estate administrator. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to learn more about what we can do to help.

What Do I Need to Know About State and Federal Law for Firearms?

Both federal and state laws govern firearm transactions during trust or estate administration. The executor or administrator has the responsibility to comply with these laws. 

These matters are taken very seriously. For example, if a person’s will designates a beneficiary who happens to also be a convicted felon to receive a firearm from the estate, the estate administrator cannot allow that transaction. If the administrator does enable the transaction to occur, they could potentially be prosecuted under criminal law.

What Should a Trust or Estate Administrator Do When a Firearm is Involved?

As a trust or estate administrator, when you discover that firearms are part of an estate, there are a few different steps that you should take.

First, make sure to examine all of the estate planning documents at your disposal. In particular, be sure to check for documents that pertain to the ownership of firearms, as well as documents that mention the ownership of firearm accessors. These documents may include things like sales receipts, titles, and registration. It would help if you also examined the estate planning documents for instructions regarding the handling of firearms. If the weapons are to be distributed to beneficiaries, find out who those beneficiaries are.

Next, you should determine whether or not there is a gun trust. A gun trust can be either a revocable or an irrevocable trust created to transfer title or the right to use firearms.

The grantor can place any legally owned firearm into the trust. However, in most cases, a gun trust is used for weapons governed under Title II of the National Firearms Act. Creating a gun trust for this purpose ensures that the firearms in the trust will be transferred in compliance with all gun laws.

Do I Need to Consult an Estate Planning Attorney?

As a trust or estate administrator, you are likely dealing with many of different issues stemming from your new role. Since it is so important to properly follow state and federal gun laws when handling trust and estate administration, it can be highly beneficial to hire an estate planning attorney to help you.

An attorney will be able to help you find out which weapons are governed by state and federal law, as well as whether or not a proposed transfer is legal. Additionally, an attorney can help you determine all of the reporting requirements for the weapons transfer and the best way to register the transfer. Since the beneficiary or recipient of the firearm may have some questions of their own, an attorney can also provide that individual with guidance.

How Should I Handle Government Approval and Transfer of Firearm Ownership?

Any weapon transfers that the NFA governs must also be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). For those who are inheriting firearms in California, it is crucial to be aware that they must register the transfer of ownership by law—or dispose of the firearm in some cases.

Generally, a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer handles a transfer of firearm ownership. During the mandatory 10-day waiting period, the firearm will be held by the licensed dealer. The parties will also need to complete a Dealer’s Record of Sale, which triggers a background check with the California Department of Justice. Gun purchasers must obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate before they take possession of the gun.

However, when firearm ownership is transferred via gift, bequest, or intestate succession, the above rules do not necessarily apply if certain conditions are met. An estate planning attorney can help you understand which rules and guidelines must be adhered to in your case to ensure that all of the federal and state laws regarding firearm transfer and ownership are properly followed.