What is a Gun Trust and How Does it Work?

Posted by John Crow | Sep 09, 2020 | 0 Comments

As part of your estate and asset protection plan, you probably think you've checked all the boxes. You may have a will, a trust, and even an end of life plan in place to protect your family and your estate. But have you thought about protecting your firearms? If you're living in Tennessee, a gun trust may be a smart addition to your estate planning.

What is a Gun Trust?

A gun trust is a generic name for a revocable or irrevocable management trust created to take the title of firearms and certain firearms accessories. Sometimes these trusts are also called NFA gun trusts because they apply to weapons covered by the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968.

NFA weapons have a serial number, and owners must register them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Only one owner can use and possess these firearms, and the owner must pay a $200 tax to transfer a registered firearm.

What Firearms Qualify for a Gun Trust?

Firearms covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 are eligible for a gun trust in Tennessee. These firearms include:

  • Fully automatic firearms: Machine guns, or fully automatic weapons, can shoot more than one shot automatically by a single action of the trigger, without manually reloading. Civilians can only use and possess machine guns manufactured before May 19, 1986. You must pay a $200 tax to the ATF to transfer a machine gun to your Tennessee trust.
  • Short-barrel shotguns (SBS): An SBS is a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 18”. You must pay a $200 tax to transfer your SBS to a Tennessee gun trust.
  • Short-barrel rifles (SBR): An SBR is a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16”. There is a $200 ATF tax to transfer an SBR to a Tennessee gun trust.
  • Sound suppressors: Silencers, suppressors, or mufflers attach to the barrel of a firearm to reduce noise and visible muzzle flash. You must pay a $200 ATF tax to transfer a sound suppressor to your trust.
  • Destructive devices: These devices include explosive devices such as grenades, bombs, mines, and large-caliber weapons like rocket launchers, cannons, and mortars. There is a $200 tax to transfer a destructive device to your trust.
  • Any other weapons (AOW): AOWs are smaller weapons and devices a carrier can hide on their body, from which a shot discharges with an explosive. These devices often do not fall into any other category. There is a $5 ATF tax to transfer an AOW to your trust.

Advantages of a Gun Trust

There are some practical advantages to a gun trust, even before estate planning comes into play:

Protecting Future Transfers

If future laws prohibit or restrict the transfer of certain firearms, a gun trust may help. Because every trustee of your gun trust can possess or use the firearms, a gun trust may allow you to sidestep some restrictions.

Multiple Owners

More than one person can own and possess a firearm in a gun trust. If you name multiple trustees to the gun trust, each trustee will have the right to use or possess the weapons.

Trust Exists Beyond Death

If you'd like, you can set up your gun trust to continue beyond your death, allowing your beneficiaries to use and possess the firearms in the trust without paying the $200 transfer tax to the ATF, filing forms, being fingerprinted, and requesting permission from local law enforcement. The trustees and beneficiaries will have whatever rights you grant them in the trust.

Avoiding Probate

If you name specific beneficiaries for the firearms in your gun trust, the firearms don't have to go through probate and pass directly to your named beneficiaries. Having your firearms in a trust can also avoid legal issues for the executor of your estate. A trustee manages the trust, and you can name a trustee well versed in federal and state gun laws to avoid the executor inadvertently passing weapons to someone who cannot legally possess them. 

Protecting Future Transfers

If future laws prohibit or restrict the transfer of certain firearms, a gun trust may help. Because every trustee of your gun trust can possess or use the firearms, a gun trust may allow you to sidestep some restrictions.

Establish Your Gun Trust Today

If you have questions about gun trusts and estate planning, the Clarksville law firm of Crow Estate Planning and Probate can help. We are dedicated to helping our clients protect what's most important to them. Your legacy matters to us, so give us a call today.  

About the Author

John Crow

John Crow is the founder of Crow Estate Planning and Probate, PLC, a boutique law firm with offices in Clarksville, Tennessee and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He has extensive experience in guiding people through the important and often complex decisions surrounding wills, trusts, probate, conservatorships, and business formations.

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