In rural Nebraska, gun ownership is not a controversial issue. The vast majority of us not only own firearms but also enjoy some type of recreational activity involving guns. For this reason, estate planning in this area of the country typically involves a plan for distributing guns. 

Like a conventional revocable trust, a gun trust is an estate planning vehicle into which you transfer guns from yourself (trustor) to an individual who will manage the gun assets in the trust (trustee).

Reasons to Create a Gun Trust

You might wonder why a person might need a gun trust, in addition to their will or their revocable trust. Primarily, because the best successor trustee for distributing your guns may not be the trustee for the rest of your property. Also, a gun trust incorporates special provisions which differ from a typical trust or will. Finally, if the gun trust was scrutinized by a third party, you may not want to reveal the remainder of your estate plan.

Other reasons to have a gun trust include:

  • To provide for the legal and safe distribution of your guns. While you may know exactly who will be the beneficiary of your gun(s), you don’t know where they might be living at the time of your death. Some states have very restrictive controls and bans upon firearms we consider commonplace. For example, California, Illinois, New York, and Virginia are known for their strong gun control laws. If your beneficiary is living in one of these states, possession of such assets could result in criminal charges. Additionally, an heir may not be mature or responsible enough at the time of your death to receive possession of a firearm. You will need a discerning trustee to carefully review these issues and make these decisions for you. 
  • Asset protection from others. You really cannot predict the situation of your beneficiary at the time of your death. If your beneficiary has been sued and a resulting judgment is in place, a creditor may be able to take the guns. If your beneficiary is going through a divorce, the guns in their possession could be seen as marital property. In addition, if a protection order has been entered against your beneficiary, it may be against the law for them to possess any guns for a while. Your valuable guns could also disqualify your beneficiary from receiving a government benefit. All of this may be avoided if the trust continues to own the guns and your beneficiary chooses only to use them from time to time.
  • Asset protection from the government. Legislation continues to become more restrictive and many Americans fear the possibility of losing some types of firearms to government confiscation. In addition, a number of special interest groups are lobbying Congress to prevent future transfers of some firearms. The beauty of a gun trust is that it’s the registered owner and not you. This renders any potential transfer legislation or restrictions inapplicable. Your intended beneficiary would simply become a “user” of guns owned by the gun trust.

If your guns are very important to you, contact Steffens Law Office for more information about gun trust estate planning. 

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