The firearm industry is heavily regulated, and a mistake during the ownership transfer of a firearm can become a felony. A gun trust can prevent these errors from occurring. But because gun trusts are not well-known, many people have questions about what a gun trust really is, and if they would benefit from getting one.
What is a Gun Trust? What Does a Gun Trust Do?
A gun trust is a term for a revocable or irrevocable trust to take title to firearms. In practice, this allows the orderly transfer of the weapon upon the death of an individual to their designated beneficiary.
When a person creates a gun trust, the trust becomes the legal owner of the gun, and a trustee is named to manage the trust for the trust’s beneficiaries. So, in these instances, the trust is the actual owner of the gun. When the creator of the gun trust dies, the weapon is legally transferred to the named beneficiary. However, the named beneficiary who will receive the weapon must go through a background check and identification process before taking possession of the weapon.
Any legally owned weapon can be placed into a gun trust—and this is recommended. However, gun trusts are specifically utilized for weapons classified as Title II under the National Firearms Act of the Gun Control Act. Title II weapons include automatic machine guns and short-barreled shotguns, among other weapons.
Even if I Do Not Have Any Title II Weapons, Why Should I Get a Gun Trust?
It may be logical for individuals with a large firearms collection to transfer ownership of these weapons to a gun trust, even if they do not own weapons listed under Title II. This is because creating a gun trust can protect an individual’s privacy. Under Texas law, an executor to an estate must file an inventory of the probate estate after an individual’s death. This would include all firearms that are part of the estate, along with the market value of each item. However, if the firearms are under a gun trust, then the firearms are not included in the probate estate and will not be listed in the inventory. This can also save significant time and expense during the probate process.
Additionally, a gun trust avoids the common issues that occur when an individual becomes unexpectedly incapacitated. Of course, incapacitated people cannot own a gun, so if the individual becomes incapacitated and does not have a spouse who can legally possess the gun, the person attempting to take possession may inadvertently break the law.
While creating and administering a gun trust may seem unnecessary, the cost of a trust is significantly smaller than the potential negative consequences if an executor runs into problems when attempting to transfer ownership of the gun without a trust in place. Instead, if the firearms are placed into a trust, the trustee can distribute the guns based on the owner’s wishes written in the trust. Gun owners can also create a contingency plan for their collection, in case the named beneficiary is unable to take possession of the weapons.
Creating a Texas gun trust can be a complicated and time-consuming process, and individuals who are interested in beginning the process should contact an experienced estate planning attorney.
Contact a Texas Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one is interested in creating a gun trust, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. With years of experience drafting a wide array of trusts, our attorneys will be able to answer all of your questions and create the gun trust that is right for you. We also handle all types of other estate planning matters for our clients, including drafting wills, creating other types of trusts, helping with Medicaid planning and business succession planning. To schedule a free consultation to speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys today, call us at 713-333-8900.