Will My Gun Trust Appear in a Law Enforcement Database?
No, your California gun trust will not appear in a Law Enforcement Database. Gun trusts are not recorded or filed anywhere.
The only government agency that would possibly get a copy of a gun trust would be the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco & Explosives (AFTE). This would only occur in certain circumstances. Specific types of guns (such as NFA guns) must be separately registered with the AFTE with a tax stamp. In order to transfer that sort of firearm into a trust, you have to go through the AFTE registration process again, this time registering the gun with the trust. So, they will need a copy of the trust for that procedure.
Why Should a Gun Trust Should be a Part of Everyone’s Estate Plan?
Because guns are different. When someone dies, transferring their firearms is a different process from the process of transferring other types of assets, like bank accounts, vehicles, or real estate. Ordinary estate planning trusts do not have the correct safeguards and authorities for the trustee that are necessary in order to smoothly facilitate the transfer of firearms. Using an ordinary estate planning trust to try to transfer a firearm can cause a lot of problems for the trustee.
Can I Let Others Use NFA Weapons That are in My Trust?
Anyone who is named as a current trustee of a trust can possess and use NFA firearms in the trust, like any other lawfully registered owner. Beyond current named trustees, you would not be able to give possession of those firearms to anyone else. For instance, if you are at a shooting range and someone else is there, you can shoot the gun together but you can’t let the other person take it with them to use on their own.
Who Can Be Assigned As A Beneficiary Of My Gun Trust?
Anyone can be assigned as the beneficiary of your gun trust. However, you need to be sure that the beneficiary you name is someone who would be able to complete a transfer of those firearms into his or her own possession—that is, someone who has the legal right to own and use firearms generally.
However, with gun trusts, we don’t look at beneficiaries so much, because the goal of the gun trust is to continue to hold those firearms even after your death rather than—like a regular estate planning trust—to transfer your assets immediately upon death. Our goal is to keep those firearms in a trust that allows the trustees to continue to use and enjoy them.
Who Should I Choose as a Trustee of my Gun Trust?
When choosing trustees for your gun trust, you should make sure that the person or people you pick are:
- Allowed to legally possess firearms
- Trustworthy enough to carry out the terms of the trust to your wishes
If I Already Own an NFA Weapon That I Wish to Transfer into a Trust, Can I do so Without Incurring Additional Transfer Tax in California?
No, you can’t. The transfer of the firearms to the gun trust is exactly the same process as transferring the firearms to an unrelated purchaser. So, if you think about the process you would have to go through to legally transfer a firearm to your neighbor, you would have to go through the same process and pay all the same fees to transfer the firearm into your trust.
The good news is that once you transfer a firearm into a trust, it is simply in the trust, and no further transfers are required. Future changes of trustees—people who have the right to possess, use and enjoy those firearms—will not require additional transfers, because the ownership of those firearms is not being changed. So, once we pay all the costs and fees to get a firearm into the trust, that should be the last time those fees are paid for those firearms.
Additional Information on Gun Trusts in California
If you want to set up a gun trust in California, you need to hire someone who has their Federal Firearms License (FFL) to take care of firearms transfers for you.