Texas has a long history of gun ownership and advocacy and many individuals and families have gun collections. Whether these weapons are used for sport, self-defense, or investment purposes, they are also considered estate assets. Unlike property, bank accounts, or similar assets, however, the transfer of many firearms and accessories are restricted by federal and state law and subject to specific requirements. Therefore, if you have a gun collection, your estate plan should include a well-designed gun trust.
Located in Houston, Hegwood Law Group is a premier estate planning practice serving clients throughout the state of Texas. Well-versed in the applicable provisions of the National Firearms Act, we can help you create a gun trust that allows your firearms to be legally transferred to your beneficiaries when you pass on. When you work with us, you can rest assured that your gun collection, and your loved ones, will be protected.
What is a Gun Trust?
A gun trust is a type of revocable living trust that allows you to retain ownership of your gun collection during your lifetime. Because the trust is revocable, you are allowed to make changes or revoke it at any time. You remain the trustee and beneficiary of the trust, designate a successor trustee and beneficiaries, and provide instructions for the disposition of your weapons upon your death.
The Benefits of a Texas Gun Trust
A gun trust provides a legal mechanism for the transfer of your firearms after your death, particularly weapons that are restricted under Title II of the National Firearms Act. These weapons, which includes short-barreled shotguns and rifles, silencers, automatic weapons, and certain other “destructive devices” are often referred to as NFA or Title II firearms. NFA weapons can only be possessed or used by the registered owner. Moreover, the transfer of such weapons requires the approval of your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) and payment of a $200 federal tax.
With a properly structured Texas gun trust, it is not necessary to obtain the approval of your local CLEO. Instead, the transfer application is sent directly to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the federal agency that regulates the sale, possession and transportation of firearms. Under ATF rules established in 2016, however, it is necessary to notify the CLEO of the intended transfer. Additionally, ATF rules now require “responsible persons” for a gun trust to undergo a criminal background check. Responsible persons are those who are authorized to manage the trust and transfer the weapons, including grantors, trustees, and successor trustees.
Unlike a typical living trust that terminates after the assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries, a Texas gun trust can be structured to remain in existence after your death, and even for generations. Because the guns remain in the trust, the transfer procedure is avoided which means it is not necessary to pay the $200 tax, and beneficiaries are not required to file an ATF transfer form. In a typical revocable trust, a single trustee is appointed to manage and distribute the trust assets, whereas a gun trust can have multiple trustees and beneficiaries.
Other benefits of a gun trust include:
- Avoiding Probate — Because the guns are held by a trust, they do not need to go through probate upon your death.
- Protect Your Guns From Future Restrictions — Establishing a Texas gun trust now will protect your firearms from future gun control legislation. The provisions in a gun trust can be amended to comply with future laws. If your weapons are deemed illegal in the future, however, you may be barred from creating a gun trust.
- Asset Protection — A properly designed gun trust will protect your weapons from creditors, divorce settlements, lawsuits, and bankruptcy.
- Ensure Your Guns Are Handled Responsibly — In a Texas gun trust, you can impose conditions for transferring weapons to beneficiaries (e.g. at age 21, if proven responsible enough to handle them), and provide instructions for the proper care and transfer of your firearms so that their value is preserved.
Why You Need a Houston Gun Trust Attorney
Ultimately, a gun trust can expedite the transfer of NFA weapons, prevent potential felony violations of the National Firearms Act, and preserve the legacy of your gun collection. While many gun dealers in Texas offer trust forms, these boilerplate documents often fail to include proper guidance or limitations to ensure that the trustee and beneficiaries do not inadvertently commit such violations. This is why it is critically important to work with the gun trust attorneys at Hegwood Law Group. Please contact our office today to ensure that your gun collection, as well as your loved ones, will be protected tomorrow.