FIREARMS IN ESTATE PLANNING
Despite our legislature’s intent, more people own guns now than ever before. However, because of the voluminous restrictions on gun ownership, it is more crucial than ever that anyone owning a gun properly provides for its succession in their estate plan. There are many things to consider in the estate planning process for succession of guns. First, all guns should be specifically listed with the make, model and serial number so there is no question of which gun is bequeathed. It is not enough to say “my shotgun” because one may own multiple shotguns. Inherent in this practice is that every time you buy another gun, you should amend your estate plan.
Second, a gun should be specifically bequeathed to a specific individual with a provision to address prior death or ineligibility of the intended beneficiary, i.e. “I bequeath my Mossberg 12 ga. Shotgun serial # 12345 to Roy Rogers, so long has he survives me and remains eligible to own guns, if not then to John Wayne”. This specifically identifies the gun and the intended beneficiary as well as provides for the possibility of the intended beneficiary predeceasing you or becoming ineligible to own a gun. It is not recommended that you group your guns together or your intended beneficiaries together as that may cause legal and familial disputes trying to divide them up. For example, it is not enough o say I leave my guns to be divided between my children. If you have five guns and only three children, how do you divide them? What if one or more children can’t own guns? What if one gun is worth a lot more than the other(s), who gets the more valuable one? All you did was create unrest in your family.
Third, is the intended beneficiary legally permitted to own a gun? There are several grounds which can cause someone to be ineligible to own a gun including, but not limited to felony convictions, some drug convictions, mental disorders, domestic violence convictions, etc. If your intended beneficiary is not eligible, pick another beneficiary and avoid the problem.
Fourth, what types of guns are we talking about? Assault weapons such as machine guns are a whole separate breed that, if not handled properly, can even get the fiduciary of the estate in trouble. Technically, once appointed, the fiduciary is in possession of the guns and possession alone of certain types of assault weapons is illegal unless the fiduciary has the necessary permits, e.g. machine guns or silencers.
Finally, sometimes even sale of the guns is not a feasible solution. Currently there is a $200 tax per gun upon its sale (not to mention the commission due to the Dealer). If the gun isn’t worth it what do you do? The only feasible solution may be destruction of the weapon.
Failure to properly transfer a gun makes it contraband and may result in major legal consequences criminally and civilly for the possessor of the weapon. Keep in mind, if the gun is in your house and not properly stored, your whole family may be considered “in possession” of the weapon and all of them may be in trouble as well.