NFA Gun Trusts are an estate planning tool used to allow the owners of NFA Firearms to share them legally with family members and to pass them down responsibly.
NFA Firearms (also called Title II Firearms) are guns and other items regulated by the National Firearms Act (the “NFA”). The NFA regulates the sale, use, possession and transfer of machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, silencers, destructive devices, and AOWs. While a traditional Living Trust can be used to purchase NFA firearms, there are many problems with using a traditional trust and therefore only an NFA Gun Trust should be used.
An individual who purchases Title II firearms is the only one permitted to use or have access to them. Many people incorrectly believe that it is okay to let others use their NFA firearms when in their presence. However, the NFA would consider this a transfer in violation of the law. Even when your spouse or someone else knows the combination to your firearms safe, you may be violating the law through “constructive” possession. Improper possession through constructive possession is a type of unapproved transfer and a violation of the NFA.
If, on the other hand, you use an NFA Gun Trust to purchase Title II firearms, you can designate additional owners and authorized users. If you want to add or change users or owners your NFA Gun Trust can be adapted to reflect your current desires. The risk of constructive possession can be dealt with by adding that person to the NFA Gun Trust so that they can be in legal possession of the firearms. This can help protect you and your family from the penalties of violating the NFA.
If you become incapacitated, your family or friends are often the ones to help you. However, during your incapacity they may come in contact with the restricted items and put themselves at risk of violating the NFA without knowledge. An NFA Gun Trust helps protect these individuals from violating the NFA by providing them clear instructions on what they are and are not permitted to do.
Passing your NFA Firearms to loved ones when you die should be done with careful planning. Without a Gun Trust, when you die your firearms will be part of your “probate estate.” Probate proceedings will be necessary to transfer your guns to your heirs and are part of the public record. Since a family member or a friend usually handles probate proceedings, it is important not to unknowingly place them at risk of violating the NFA. With an NFA Gun Trust, your firearms are not subject to probate or made part of a public record. Your beneficiaries will be protected because they will receive guidance on how and under what circumstances the items can be legally transferred. If you have children, a NFA Gun Trust has specific provisions to protect them and make sure they do not receive the firearms if they live in a location where it is illegal to possess NFA firearms, and most importantly a NFA Gun Trust can help ensure that your children are mature and responsible enough that you would want them to have the firearms.