How to Administer Estates Containing Firearms

May 15, 2015

Making sure to not miss a single spotOne of the biggest challenges to Executors in probating estates occurs when firearms are included.  The initial issues are obvious:

  1. How do you legally transfer possession to the beneficiary?
  2. What if the beneficiary lives in a city that does not permit ownership?
  3. What is the liability of the Executor for holding or transporting the firearms?

In addition to these challenges, the Executor will likely be paralyzed when she realizes there are Class 3 firearms in the Estate.  Title II (as defined in the Firearms Act of 1968, see 26 U.S.C. Section 5845) firearms, weapons, and suppressors are commonly known as Class 3 firearms and are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).  The issue with Class 3 firearms is that they cannot be transferred unless approved by BATFE.  Now for the scary part:  An individual (including Executor of Estate) who possesses a Class 3 firearm without the approval of BATFE is in possession of contraband and subject to federal fines (up to $250,000) and imprisonment (up to 10 years).

As a result, the BATFE or approved dealer will need to confiscate the Class 3 firearm and keep it until an approved transfer can be facilitated.  An approved transfer will require fingerprinting, local law enforcement officer approval, application to BATFE and fees.

The better solution to avoid all of these issues is to own the firearms and weapons in a trust with the special purpose of holding firearms and weapons.  These trusts are commonly referred to as NFA Gun Trusts.  Instead of the firearms being owned by the Estate and involving probate and federal gun laws, the Gun Trust would specify the succession of “beneficiaries” without the need for a “transfer.”


Bryson Law Firm: Suwanee, Georgia. Attorney Richard Bryson has over 15 years experience with investment entities, elder law, estate planning, probate, wills and trusts, tax planning, tax dispute resolution, asset protection, personal injury, business formation, real estate transactions, and Medicaid and VA planning. Contact our Gwinnett County law firm at 404-909-8842.