It seems like gun trusts are everywhere these days. You can’t go into an online forum or physical gun shop where they deal with silencers or other more heavily regulated items and not hear someone talking about gun trusts. There’s a lot of lingo that gets thrown around pertaining to trusts: grantor, settlor, trustee, responsible person, revocable, irrevocable, and more.
Deciding whether or not to use a gun trust is just one of the many important decisions that must be made when it comes to buying a suppressor, an SBR, or a machine gun. So what, exactly, is a gun trust? Why do they matter, and how did they get so popular? We’ll cover all of that and more in this article.
A gun trust is a legal entity that has special rules and provisions built into it that ensure the trustee and beneficiaries of the trust do not violate the National Firearms Act (NFA). Violating federal gun laws, even by accident, could result in loss of firearms, a prison term of up to 10 years, and fines up to $10,000.
Gun trusts are sometimes called NFA Trusts because they are most often used when it comes to items that are subject to the NFA. Firearms that are subject to the restrictions and laws of the NFA include short-barreled rifles (SBRs), suppressors, machine guns, and short-barreled shotguns (SBSs).
How Gun Trusts Work
A gun trust is a revocable trust created to hold title to your firearms and other NFA-regulated items. Because the trust is a legal entity, it becomes the legal owner of the guns or other items that are either transferred to or originally purchased by the trust.
However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have control over your guns and accessories. The person who creates the trust is called the grantor or settlor, and the items within it are ones that they have purchased through the trust for their own use and specific people of their choosing.
Usually, this person is named to manage the trust for the trust’s other authorized users and beneficiaries. Because the trust is revocable, the grantor can make changes to, or even void entirely, the trust agreement at any time before the grantor’s death. This includes adding and subtracting people from the list of trustees. When the grantor dies, the trust becomes irrevocable, and an alternate trustee manages the trust for the individuals who become the beneficiaries after the grantor passes away.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Gun Trusts
As with all things related to firearms and the law, there are advantages and disadvantages to using gun trusts. We’ll take a look at some of each to help you decide what might be best for you.
Advantages of Using a Gun Trust
NFA items have their own set of special legal rules that apply to them, and things can get real complicated real quick when life (or death) gets in the way. If you’ve got a gun trust set up, it can help mitigate and guide how things unfold when it comes to those items.
- Items can be used by multiple people
- Avoid the probate process
- Confiscation protection
Disadvantages of Using a Gun Trust
If we’re being completely honest, there really aren’t many disadvantages to using a gun trust. Instead, there are just a few things to consider and keep in mind. They’re not really disadvantages in our view, but they aren’t advantages either, so this is where there’s being categorized.
- You’ll do more paperwork
- It’s not a fast track to approval
- Photo and fingerprints are required
How to Set Up a Gun Trust
Unless you’re a lawyer, there’s a good chance that you don’t completely understand all of the “legal-ese” that goes into setting up a gun trust – and that’s perfectly fine. No one expects their car mechanic to know how to do open heart surgery either.
Instead, the best way to set up a trust is to have a lawyer or another company with experience in setting up trusts (like our sister company, Silencer Central) do it for you. In this scenario, the actual legwork required by you is minimal. You decide the name of the trust, who will be included in it, what items will be included in it (you can put non-NFA guns in here, too), and then sign off on all the paperwork, get fingerprinted, have your photo taken, and submit it all to the ATF.
Do I Need a Trust to Purchase an NFA Item?
No, you do not need a gun trust to purchase NFA items. Because trusts aren’t one-size-fits-all, they may not be right for every potential buyer. As a result, plenty of NFA items are sold each and every year that are registered in the name of the individual owner. One option isn’t necessarily better than the other – just different.
Whether you use a trust or not has zero impact on your actual purchase of the item. It doesn’t make it cost any more or less and it doesn’t add or subtract any meaningful amount of paperwork to an already cumbersome process
What’s the Cost of a Gun Trust?
The cost of a gun trust varies widely. There are a lot of websites online that offer to set up trusts for you and their costs are all over the place. The same goes for using an in-person attorney to set up a gun trust. The cost will vary from attorney to attorney.
Read more related articles here:
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Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.