What is a NFA Gun Trust?

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Under the National Firearms Act (NFA) all Title II weapons including: machine guns, suppressors, short barreled shotguns, short barreled rifles, destructive devices and “any other weapons” must be registered to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and obtain a NFA Tax Stamp. Applying for a NFA Tax Stamp can be quite the process as we learned in our “How do I get a NFA permit, stamp, or license” blog. If you are looking for an alternative to registering a NFA weapon individually, or you want to ensure your family has the rights to your NFA weapons, then a NFA gun trust may be the answer for you.


What is a Gun Trust?

A gun trust is a way to legally register an NFA weapon and share them legally with family. With a trust you also have the ability to pass NFA items down to beneficiaries responsibly, and without fear of family having possession of an illegal firearm when you pass. Instead of an individual being the registered owner, a grantor will submit the application to ATF with the trust listed as the owner. The grantor along with trustees will hold the trust property for the beneficiaries. The trustees may legally possess and shoot the NFA weapons as trust property without being listed on the application. Since federal law prohibits persons under 18 years old from possessing NFA weapons, all trustees must be 18 or older. A beneficiary is the person (can be a minor) who will receive the firearms upon death of the grantor, there is no limit to the amount of beneficiaries within a trust.


What is different?

There are some ATF requirements not necessary with a gun trust. Unlike registering individually, with a gun trust you are not required to provide the signature of a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) on your application. For some acquiring the CLEO is the most frustrating part of getting a tax stamp and it may be a good alternative for those who can not acquire the CLEO to use a gun trust. You also do not need to provide the two sets of fingerprint cards, or two photographs that are necessary if applying individually. The trust allows you to have a little more privacy without the need of fingerprints or photos.


What happens after you die?

If a grantor dies unexpectedly before the beneficiary of the trust is of  legal age, the trustees will be responsible for the NFA items until the beneficiary becomes of age. Without a gun trust in place, the responsibility of securing your NFA weapons will go to the executor of your will. The problem with this is that under federal law the mere possession of NFA weapons without appropriate documentation is a federal crime and ignorance of the law is not a defense. The executor should contact the ATF as soon as possible and start the process of filling out Form 5 for a tax exempt transfer to the beneficiary. For more information on the transfer of NFA firearms in decedents’ estates read more here. It is also important to note that regular firearms have many of the same problems regarding transfer upon death as NFA firearms, so it is a good idea to have all the firearms you own in one trust.

Creating a NFA gun trust has many advantages, and protects your executor and beneficiaries if anything happens to you. This is a brief overview of basic gun trust information, if you are interested in setting up your own gun trust, it would be wise to consult a lawyer to help guide you through the process, and consult your state’s rules and regulations on all NFA items.

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