What Is a Gun Trust, and Do I Need One?

June 6th, 2017

What Is a Gun Trust, and Do I Need One?

By:  Brittany E. O’Brien and Heather Rooney McBride


The National Firearms Act (“NFA”)[1] and its revision, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968[2], created regulations of the sale, use, possession, and transfer of Title II firearms (machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, silencers, destructive devices, and “any other weapon” AOWs such as disguised or improvised firearms.)  It is legal to own these weapons in Missouri, but they must be registered with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”).  If a weapon is not registered, it is illegal to possess it, and even if they are registered, they can only be possessed and used by the registered owner. This means that if you loan your Title II registered short-barreled shotgun to your friend and your friend hurts someone or damages property, your friend can be found to have committed a crime, simply for using the gun, and you can be found liable for the damage.


If you have a gun trust that owns Title II weapons, you can designate more than one trustee who has the right to possess and use the weapons which, in turn, greatly decreases your individual liability. Having these persons designated within the trust also increases privacy in that the trust is a private entity that does not have any recording requirement in the State of Missouri.  One of the biggest benefits of having a qualified gun trust is that you can pass on your weapons to your heirs without going through probate, without your heirs having to file an ATF transfer form, and without having to pay transfer tax.


A gun trust is not the same as a conventional trust, in that for it to be effective, it needs to have the necessary language that is required by the NFA for gun ownership, use and disposition.  Without the necessary language, none of the safeguards, guidance and protection are provided by the trust.  Also, it is likely there are people you would want to designate as trustees of your gun trust that you not want to designate as trustees of a traditional trust.  Thus, it is important to work with a lawyer that is familiar with both the laws of traditional estate planning, and those unique to gun trusts, in order to create a comprehensive estate plan that meets all of your estate planning needs. The attorneys at Rooney McBride and Smith, LLC are knowledgeable regarding the nuances of NFA gun trusts and have extensive estate planning experience.   If you would like to discuss how you can protect your firearms and other assets, please call our office to schedule a consultation.

[1] 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53

[2] 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44