Understanding Firearm Trusts: Protecting Your Firearms and Estate in California

by | Nov 17, 2023 | estate planning

Understanding Firearm Trusts

In your estate and asset protection plan, you’ve taken the necessary steps to safeguard your family and estate by creating a will, trust, and end-of-life plan. However, have you considered the importance of protecting your firearms? A gun trust, also known as an NFA gun trust, is a management trust specifically designed to hold the title of firearms and certain firearms accessories, ensuring compliance with the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act of 1968. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of firearm trusts, including eligibility, advantages, and the process of establishing a gun trust in California.

What Firearms Qualify for a Gun Trust in California?

Firearms covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 are eligible for a gun trust in California. These firearms include:

  • Fully automatic firearms: Commonly referred to as machine guns, these weapons have the capability to shoot multiple rounds automatically with a single trigger pull, without the need for manual reloading. Civilians can only possess and use machine guns manufactured before May 19, 1986, and must pay a $200 transfer tax to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for each registered machine gun transferred to their California gun trust.
  • Short-barrel shotguns (SBS): A short-barrel shotgun is defined as a shotgun with a barrel length shorter than 18 inches. To transfer an SBS to your California gun trust, a $200 ATF tax is required.
  • Short-barrel rifles (SBR): Similar to SBS, a short-barrel rifle is a rifle with a barrel length shorter than 16 inches. The transfer of an SBR to your California gun trust also requires a $200 ATF tax.
  • Sound suppressors: Also known as silencers or suppressors, these devices are attached to the barrel of a firearm to reduce noise and muzzle flash. To transfer a sound suppressor to your trust, a $200 ATF tax must be paid.
  • Destructive devices: This category includes explosive devices such as grenades, bombs, mines, as well as large-caliber weapons like rocket launchers, cannons, and mortars. The transfer of a destructive device to your gun trust requires a $200 tax payment.
  • Any other weapons (AOW): AOWs encompass smaller concealed weapons and devices that can discharge a shot with an explosive. These devices often do not fit into any other category. The transfer of an AOW to your trust requires a $5 ATF tax.

It’s important to note that the eligibility for gun trusts and the specific regulations may vary depending on your state. Consulting with legal advisors specializing in trust management is crucial to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations in California.

Advantages of a Gun Trust in California

In addition to providing compliance with NFA regulations, gun trusts offer several practical advantages, even before considering estate planning implications. Let’s explore some of these benefits:

1. Protecting Future Transfers

A gun trust can provide protection against potential future laws that may prohibit or restrict the transfer of certain firearms. By allowing multiple trustees to possess and use the firearms, a gun trust can offer a potential workaround for certain restrictions. This flexibility can be particularly valuable in a changing legal landscape.

2. Multiple Owners

Unlike individual ownership, a gun trust allows for multiple individuals to own and possess firearms. By naming multiple trustees to the gun trust, each trustee gains the right to use or possess the weapons held within the trust. This feature can be advantageous for families or groups of individuals who wish to jointly own firearms and ensure their responsible use and management.

3. Trust Existence Beyond Death

By setting up your gun trust to continue beyond your death, you can ensure that your beneficiaries can use and possess the firearms without having to pay the $200 transfer tax to the ATF, file forms, undergo fingerprinting, or seek permission from local law enforcement. The rights and privileges granted to the trustees and beneficiaries can be specified within the trust, ensuring that your firearms are passed down and enjoyed by future generations seamlessly.

4. Avoiding Probate

Incorporating specific beneficiaries for the firearms in your gun trust can help bypass the probate process. By doing so, the firearms can pass directly to the named beneficiaries without going through the lengthy and potentially complicated probate proceedings. Additionally, having your firearms in a trust can prevent legal issues for the executor of your estate, as a trustee well-versed in federal and state gun laws can manage the firearms’ transfer in accordance with legal requirements.

5. Privacy and Confidentiality

A gun trust offers an additional layer of privacy and confidentiality for firearm owners. Unlike the public probate process, a trust administration typically occurs privately, ensuring that your firearms and their transfer remain confidential within the trust.

Establishing Your Gun Trust in California

If you are considering establishing a gun trust and have questions regarding its implications for your estate planning in California, it is essential to seek guidance from qualified legal professionals. The Santa Rosa law office of Galanti & Copenhaver specializes in assisting clients with gun trusts and estate planning, ensuring that what matters most to you is protected. With their expertise and dedication to client satisfaction, Galanti & Copenhaver can help you navigate the complexities of firearm trusts and ensure the seamless integration of this essential component into your overall estate and asset protection strategy in the Santa Rosa area.

Take the necessary steps to protect your firearms and estate. Contact Galanti & Copenhaver today and secure your legacy for generations to come in California.