Have you built up a big, beautiful arsenal that you’d like to hand down to your kin one day? Bless you for doing so. Without my grandfather, I’d never have come into possession of my antique Walther PPK. He got it during his trip to Europe back in the 1940s. He once told me its former owner “didn’t need it anymore.”

You want your heirs to enjoy your firearms. You certainly don’t want them to get in trouble because of them. To ensure that doesn’t happen, you may want to create a gun trust.

Let me get this out of the way before we continue. Treat this guide as a 10,000 foot view of gun trusts. If you’re serious about going through the legal hoops, you’ll want a lawyer. Any advice you glean from this article about gun trusts had better be substantiated by a fellow wearing an expensive suit (or lady wearing an expensive pantsuit) before you make any legal decisions.

What Is a Gun Trust?

NFA paperwork as part of a gun trust

A trust is a special kind of legal arrangement. It lets you hold assets on behalf of your beneficiary or beneficiaries. Americans commonly implement a trust as part of an estate plan.

The trust is the legal owner of the assets it holds. It exists in place of a flesh and blood person. A trust usually avoids getting tangled up in probate. This allows your beneficiary access to said assets faster than if you had simply willed them.

A trust is either revocable or irrevocable.

If it is revocable, the person setting up the trust can change or terminate the trust without their beneficiary’s permission. The greater control a revocable trust affords makes it more popular among grantors.

Why Set up a Gun Trust?

Shooter at a shooting range firing a rifle

Any legally owned firearm can be part of a gun trust, but a gun trust is most commonly set up to take control of NFA Title II weapons. These include automatic machine guns, short barreled shotguns, and suppressors. The government heavily regulates how you transfer and transport those weapon. Just like you would not want to take your pre-May M60 on a road trip, you would not want to give it to someone who hasn’t received license to own one.

Basically, if you kick the bucket, the first thought on your son’s mind isn’t going to be whether the suppressor he found in your sock drawer is illegal for him to possess. A gun trust can prevent him from learning that lesson the hard (and excruciatingly expensive) way.

The beneficiary of a gun trust must still go through the normal background check before taking legal possession of its assets. It is crucial you make certain that at least one of your beneficiaries can pass that background check before finalizing your gun trust.

A gun trust can grant possession of your firearms to more than one person. If you would like to take care not to snub anyone, or cause any family rifts, then naming all of your kids as equal beneficiaries will accomplish that goal.

Should a Gun Trust Only Include Title II Weapons?

Not at all. If you own a lot of weapons and none of them fall under the Title II designation, transferring your collection to a beneficiary with the aid of a gun trust may still be advisable.

Your collection may be very valuable. If that’s the case, your beneficiaries might wish to sell a part of it off after you’ve bought the farm. (They will almost certainly do this because they want to erect a statue of you in your honor.) A gun trust can facilitate this process immensely.

Many states require that an executor file an inventory of transferred assets. As a public document, anyone can access such a probate inventory. Your beneficiary may not wish for their long list of newly acquired firearms, complete with their market values, to be available to every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and burglar) out there. A gun trust doesn’t go through probate, so it can prevent that vulnerability from popping up.

A gun trust can smooth things out in the event that you become incapacitated and legally inelligible to own any firearm, Title II or otherwise. If something dreadful happens to you, your gun trust will dictate the terms of a legal transfer of your firearm collection to your beneficiary.

In the scheme of things, the cost of setting up a gun trust is peanuts compared to the consequences your heirs might face as the result of inheriting your firearms. A gun trust can accommodate multiple successive generations, and take both federal and state gun laws into account. It is one thing to be so kind as to bestow your arsenal to your loved ones, but doing so in a way that doesn’t cause them any headaches? That’s a good way to ensure your families remembers you fondly!