Owning guns is a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, that doesn't mean that you can't get into legal trouble with law enforcement. To make matters worse, when you pass away, whoever inherits your weapons could also end up with legal entanglements regarding your weapons.
One way in which you can protect yourself and your heirs or beneficiaries is through a gun trust. This estate planning tool is especially important if you own weapons that fall under the National Firearms Act (NFA) Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 such as a suppressor, a fully automatic machine gun or a short-barreled shotgun.
How could a gun trust help you?
Did you know that even letting someone else use your Title II weapons for a few rounds constitutes a felony? Under the law, you are the only one who can use these weapons. If you want to make sure that a family member or friend can legally use these weapons, a gun trust can help. Its trustees can also use these weapons as long as he or she goes through and passes the identification process and background check required by law.
As is the case with any other trust, this type of trust legally owns your weapons instead of you. When you pass away, surviving family members may take physical possession of the weapons, but the trust continues to own them. This does not mean that your heirs or beneficiaries do not have to go through the requisite identification process or background check in order to take physical possession of the weapons, however.
What if you don't own any Title II weapons?
You may not own the types of weapons that fall under Title II, but that doesn't mean you couldn't benefit from this type of trust. Below are the primary benefits you and your beneficiaries and heirs receive through a gun trust:
- If you become incapacitated, you can't legally own guns and someone else will need to take possession of them, but doing so could violate the law. Since you appoint a successor trustee in your gun trust, that person can take possession of your weapons without breaking the law.
- The weapons are owned by the trust and do not become part of your estate. When you pass away, no one will know what types or the number of weapons you own since they do not need to go through probate.
- Putting your weapons into a gun trust makes it easier to transfer them to heirs and beneficiaries. If the intent is to sell them after you pass away, this trust makes it less likely that your successor or co-trustee will encounter legal problems when doing so.
Owning guns may be your right, but you still need to comply with Pennsylvania and federal laws regarding the ownership of weapons. Using a gun trust can help you avoid any potential legal entanglements that could result in criminal charges for you and your heirs and beneficiaries.