Thoughts and strategies from a Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorney regarding estate planning, elder law, asset protection, trust and probate administration, and business planning.
Monday, January 9, 2017
The Purpose of a Gun or Firearm Trust
Americans as a whole passionately believe in gun ownership. We express our Second Amendment right with approximately 233 million guns in private hands across the country. It’s part of our ethos, along with self-reliance. But with any right comes a duty to be accountable and responsible it seems to me.
It is widely known that 7 of 10 Americans have no estate plans at all. And a big percentage of most of those 10 own one or more firearms. Firearms are not like stock certificates – whipping out a share of Microsoft and showing it off in Starbucks is not currently a crime. The display of a firearm in the wrong setting may constitute “brandishing” which generally IS a crime.
The definition of a firearm includes guns but also “silencers”, “any other weapons” or “destructive devices”. These last three, while not “guns”, are regulated as firearms under Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (the National Firearms Act) along with machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and short-barreled shotguns which certainly are guns. Title I of the 1968 Act regulates pistols, rifles, shotguns, giving much autonomy to state regulation of guns.
It’s no crime to own a stock certificate at 18. It’s no crime to let somebody have the combination to your fireproof safe where you store it. When you are at your broker’s office, showing off your Microsoft Stock Certificate Number 0001 and passing it around to let everyone handle it - it’s no crime. If somebody was convicted of domestic violence, or if they use controlled substance, they can still have access to your stock certificate or even get it as a gift.
With a firearm, all of these things might constitute state and/or federal felonies with horrific penalties. Mere access to a firearm, actual or constructive possession, a seemingly innocent transfer of a firearm can be crimes. The definition of what constitutes a “transfer” under state or federal law is amorphous.
A “gun trust” could be written as a “purpose trust” (often invalid from the start) or is more commonly a conventional living trust merely used to expedite acquisition of an NFA firearm. Using an entity such as a corporation or trust avoids having to ask the local Chief Law Enforcement Officer to sign off on a request to transfer an NFA firearm. An entity, like a trust, has no face or fingerprints so an application can be sent directly to the BATFE for a tax stamp to approve the transfer. But the real issues addressed by instead using a real “purpose-built” gun trust are far more important.
So far, most Americans are not timely estate planners. Firearms of any type introduce a whole new set of issues considering that some are heirlooms or badges of honor. Passing on a firearms legacy must be done within the law with careful consideration of what it requires.
The Gun Docx® Trust system was developed for WealthCounsel members to help their firearms owning clients to do just that… and to avoid accidental felonies in the process.
Please contact us to investigate you firearms trust options, we offer 3 levels on gun trusts in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.