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My estate will include firearms, are there any special estate planning tools I should utilize?

Published on December 17th, 2018

Estate Planning Lawyer

A majority of Americans who choose to own firearms do so with the utmost respect for the object, and as part of a collection, for hunting purposes, or personal protection. Along with the choice of owning firearms comes owner precautions’ including obtaining valid license and registration. Storing the firearms and implementing proper safety measures is also an important consideration.

Problems You May Encounter When You Include Firearms in an Estate

Even if you include a firearm in your legal will, it may not legally be allowed to be passed onto a beneficiary. For example, this may apply:

  • If the beneficiary is a convicted felon
  • The personal representative of the estate is a convicted felon
  • The beneficiary is a minor

If any of the above holds true, an estate planning lawyer should be sought for legal advice.


Gun Trust – If you are the representative of an estate, it is important you review the entire estate plan, especially if you believe firearms are included. One particular document to look for is a gun trust. These are special trusts that allow a smooth and easier transfer of firearms from the drafter of the trust (i.e. settlor) to the beneficiary.

Gifting – Bare in mind that there are very specific laws to regulate the transfer of firearms. Therefore, to give a beneficiary a firearm as a gift is not as simple as gifting jewelry, for example.

Liability – As the personal representative, if you are found to have given a beneficiary a gun without following the strict legal protocols, you could be found liable and be criminally charged or fined.

Understanding a Gun Trust

A gun trust is a special document that enables multiple people to possess firearms which are part of the trust. Unlike a single individual owning the gun, the trust is the owner. Possession of any firearm included in the trust can be moved from the settlor to a beneficiary with ease. If your estate includes a gun trust, it may be a good idea to ask a lawyer whether it is valid and what you should do from this point onwards.

The National Firearms Act

The National Firearms Act is a special Federal act that includes rules about how certain firearms must be transferred. It also describes the way in which taxes on these firearms should be paid. Not every firearm is part of the act. Examples of those which are, include silencers, destructive devices, machine guns, short barreled rifles, and short barreled shotguns.

When firearms such as these are included in an estate, the government must be notified of the potential transfer. A special form from the ATF will need to be completed, a new registration should be made, and then a transfer request can ensue. It will be up to the government to approve this request of transfer.

When a Firearm is Not Included in the The National Firearms Act

If the estate includes firearms that are not included in this act, the following must be true in order for the item to be transferred to a beneficiary:

  • The beneficiary is at least 18 years of age
  • The beneficiary does not have a felony or criminal record
  • The beneficiary has obtained the necessary licenses/permits

If you are the owner of the firearm, the representative of an estate, or the beneficiary who is supposed to receive the firearm, you should consult a will lawyer Ridgefield, CT offers who can guide you through this process and ensure you do so while remaining compliant with state and federal laws.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into estate planning and firearms.

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