What happens to my guns when I die?

As a firearm owner, you not only need to make sure your firearms are properly handled and stored during your lifetime, but also after your death. So what happens to your guns after you die? 

Firearms are, from a legal perspective, like any other untitled personal property. For the purposes of dividing your estate, a gun is not treated any differently than a power drill or a leather purse. In other words, with just a little pre-planning YOU can direct who gets your firearms and under what conditions. 

You don’t plan to let the government decide who gets your guns, do you?  If you do not want state law determining who inherits your prized hunting rifle or gen 5 Glock 19 with RMO and slide cuts, YOU NEED A WILL.

If you do not already have a will, shame on you. You probably own a firearm for personal protection. Fortunately, self-defense is a relatively rare occurrence. You know what isn’t rare? Death. In fact, barring Christ’s return, it is a certainty you are going to die. Take the time and spend the money to plan for what is certain in addition to what is possible.

Guns are NOT regular personal property

Of course, there are many more laws which apply to guns than a purse so you need to take that into consideration when planning your estate. For instance, suppose you live in Alabama with a standard configuration AR-15 and want to bequest that rifle to your son who lives in California. Can he legally take ownership and possession of that rifle after the reading of the will? Probably not. Do not let your final gift end up making your son a state and federal felon! 

These concerns are especially important when dealing with “NFA items” such as a silencer (suppressor), short-barrelled rifle (SBR), short-barrelled shotgun (SBS), or machine gun (MG).  As a general rule, those items cannot be either transferred or even moved out of state without appropriate forms and approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

Is your estate administrator or executor going to know all the applicable gun laws? Will s/he even know to ask? 

The solution: As mentioned, the solution is not hard, time consuming, or expensive. You either need to put the firearms into a gun trust or you need a special provision in your will for your firearms.

Gun trust advantages

If your firearms are owned via a gun trust, you have several benefits: 1) during your lifetime, and even after, there can be more than one trustee who can possess the firearm. This means your wife or son can both shoot and possess your suppressor; 2) firearms owned by a trust do not go through the probate process; and 3) the trust will offer the trustee(s) direction on how to stay in compliance with state and federal laws.  While a gun trust is most often used for NFA items, any type of firearm can be put into a trust.

Special will provision

If you do not place your firearms into a trust, your will should contain special directions to your executor how to handle your firearms during the probate process and afterward. If you already have a will you do not need a new one. Instead you can simply add to the existing will with a codicil. If you do not already have a will, get one. 

Our office has extensive experience with estate planning and firearms. We will be glad to assist with planning your estate and how to handle your firearms after your death.  Click the link that best describes your need.

Read more information about bequeathing and inheriting guns: //www.everplans.com/articles/bequeathing-and-inheriting-guns-what-to-do-with-firearms-when-someone-dies

Frequently Asked Questions about Wills & Estate Planning