Gun Trust Intake Form - If you are ready to set up a gun trust, fill out this form. After receiving this form, an invoice will be emailed to you for the flat fee for drafting the trust and you will have the digital documents of your trust returned to you by email within 2-3 business days. If you would like more information on gun trusts or NFA trusts -- keep on reading. 

Special Asset Protection: What is a gun trust?

 A gun trust is a special legal entity created for individuals to own and operate certain property, usually weapons and accessories covered by the National Firearms Act or NFA. The revocable trusts are sometimes referred to as "Class 3" weapons, or Class 3 trusts.

    Osprey from SilencerCo


Osprey from SilencerCo

NFA weapons include all fully automatic and select fire weapons, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and sound suppressors (silencers).

What is the advantage of a gun trust?

A gun trust is the optimal vehicle for possessing NFA weapons because the trustee can include multiple co-trustees and allow each of them to transport and/or use the firearms without violating NFA and ATF regulations. A gun trust does not require registration with the state, has no annual filing or tax fees, and does not require the signoff of the Chief Law Enforcement Office (CLEO) like the registration of an individual for an NFA item. Some CLEOs flatly refuse to sign the documents, preventing private individuals from lawfully acquiring NFA items. A gun trust also does not require fingerprints or a photograph (BCI) to be included upfront with the ATF form.

Many gun owners desire privacy regarding their property. A properly drafted gun trust will also include succession-planning language, allowing the lawful transfer of items on the death or incapacity of the original trustees to successive trustees and/or beneficiaries. A trust allows an intergenerational transfer to happen outside of probate (and the public record)--saving time, money, and unwanted publicity. Some people believe the law might change with respect to the transfer of guns during your lifetime or at the owner’s death, making it difficult or even impossible for your heirs to inherit your guns. Using a trust could bypass these legislative changes and allow beneficiaries to legally enjoy the use of your guns after you are gone.

What kind of weapons are covered under the NFA?

Federal law, found in both the National Firearms Act and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR Part 479) outline these items. Some examples include: 

  • Machine guns;
  • The frames or receivers of machine guns;
  • Any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting weapons into machine guns;
  • Any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for converting a weapon into a machine gun;
  • Any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if the parts are in the possession or under the control of a person;
  • Suppressors, and any part designed and intended for fabricating a supressor;
  • Short-barreled rifles;
  • Short-barreled shotguns;
  • Destructive devices; and,
  • “Any other weapon.”  

A few examples of destructive devices are:

  • Molotov cocktails;
  • Anti-tank guns (over caliber .50);
  • Bazookas; and,
  • Mortars

A few examples of “any other weapon” are:

  • H&R Handyguns;
  • Ithaca Auto-Burglar guns;
  • Cane guns; and,
  • Gadget-type firearms and “pen” guns which fire a projectile by the action of an explosive. So, essentially anything from a James Bond movie should be a tip-off.

[26 U.S.C. 5845]

Note also that certain parts which convert a firearm into an NFA firearms are also subject to registration, such as:

  • An M-2 conversion kit
  •  Any part designed and intended solely and exclusively to convert a weapon into a machine gun

Who can be a co-trustee on a gun trust?

Any adult over the age of 21 who is not a prohibited person can be a co-trustee on a gun trust. However, since the individual will have present possessory rights to the property, it is recommended that only family members or close associates be appointed co-trustees. A co-trustee can legally operate, store or travel with any NFA item without paying a transfer tax. After the trust is created, the grantor or creator of the trust can change who the co-trustees are by making an amendment to the trust. 

How many trustees can I have on a gun trust?

As many as you would like, though they should all be trustworthy individuals and free of any prohibited person gun ownership issues. 

Who is a prohibited person?

The Gun Control Act (GCA) makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to ship, transport, receive, or possess firearms. 18 USC 922(g). Transfers of firearms to any such prohibited persons are also unlawful. 18 USC 922(d).

These categories include any person:

  • Under indictment or information in any court for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • who is a fugitive from justice;
  • who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
  • who is an illegal alien;
  • who has been discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions;
  •  who has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
  •  who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
  •  who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (enacted by the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 104-208, effective September 30, 1996). 18 USC 922(g) and (n).

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) prohibits the issuance of licenses to persons who have been convicted of:

  •  Section 38 of the AECA, 22 USC 2778;
  • Section 11 of the Export Administration Act of 1979, 60 USC App. 2410;
  •   Sections 7903, 794, or 798 of Title 18, USC, relating to espionage involving defense or classified information;
  •  Section 16 of the Trading with the Enemy Act, 50 USC App. 16;
  • Section 30A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 USC 78dd-1, or section 104 of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 15 USC 78dd-2;
  •  Chapter 105 of Title 18, USC, relating to sabotage;
  •   Section 4(b) of the Internal Security Act of 1950, 50 USC 783(b), relating to communication of classified information;
  •  Sections 57, 92, 101, 104, 222, 224, 225, or 226 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, 42 USC 2077 2122, 2131, 2234, 2272, 2275, and 2276;
  •   Section 601 of the National Security Act of 1947, 50 USC 421, relating to the protection of the identity of undercover intelligence officers, agents, and other sources;
  • Section 371 of Title 17, USC, when it involves conspiracy to violate any of the above statutes; and
  • International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC 1702 and 1705.

Can I add or delete trustees later on?

Yes. The trusts are drafted so that each has an addendum immediately following the trust, which will be signed and notarized at the same time, authorizing additional co-trustees to the Trust. This makes it easier to add or remove trustees down the road as circumstances dictate without changing the text of the body of the trust.

All of these changes should be done to the document on a computer, and then printed out as an updated addendum. If you would like to add someone, simply add their name to the list of Co-Trustees and have them sign acknowledging their acceptance as a non-prohibited person capable of legally owning an NFA item. If you need to remove someone, remove their name and have the current co-Trustees sign the updated copy. You will also want to adjust your Trust Certificate accordingly so that it reflects the accurate makeup of the current Trustees. Once you are finished, destroy the old and now void copies of the addendum and Trust Certificate.

How much does it cost to get a Trust drafted?

Currently, the flat fee for drafting of an NFA trust is $300. For those referred from a local gun shop, contact me for pricing.

Are there any other fees or costs associated with a Trust?

No. While there may be other costs associating with purchasing a NFA item such as the cost of the firearm, the stamp fee, and maintenance/cleaning, custom work,  there are no filings or registration fees associated with a NFA trust. The trust is not registered with the state or federal government except as the entity registering any particular NFA item. You responsibilities as a Trustee include: keeping a printed copy of the trust in a safe place, keeping a proper inventory of trust property (by updating Schedule A as items are transferred into the trust) to prevent co-mingling with other non-trust assets, safeguarding the trust property (ensuring proper caretaking and transport of items as appropriate), and always having a “funded” trust. You will initially fund the trust with a $1 bill until you have some NFA items in the trust. Some people suggest opening up a bank account in the name of your trust. My reading of the law does not require this, however, if you plan on buying several items and have money coming from different sources, it may not be a bad idea. To set up a bank account for your trust, bring the trust certificate to the bank (or set it up online) and make sure the bank titles the account in the official name of the trust. For example, Bank of Utah has an “EZ checking” account with no fees or minimum balance that you could open in the name of the trust. You will have to provide some personal identification as the signing trustee of the account. You can then transfer money into the trust to purchase items (or pay your ATF taxes) and write the checks from the trust checking account. 

Can I put other non-NFA items in a gun trust?

Some people are curious about putting your regular guns in a gun trust. Here's the lawyer answer... "it depends."

You certainly can put your other guns in a trust, but make sure that you have been thoughtful about who you would like to receive and be responsible for your items in the even of incapacitation or death.  An NFA trust may not have all the language you would want to reflect your estate planning goals, and there may be tax implications if you have a very large gun collection or estate. Contact me if you are interested in getting your estate planning done and we can set something up that makes sense for your family, including making the right plans for your guns. 

How do I fill out my ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) forms?

If you are transferring an NFA item into your trust, you will need to fill out Form 4. If you are looking to make or convert your own item, you will need to fill Form 1.

The ATF is in the process of updating their electronic filing system to meet the increased demand for NFA item approval. You can file your forms electronically here if you are filing as an entity (like a trust).

Form 1 Tips:

While the ATF e-filing homepage claims IE as the most compatible browser, more users have had more luck with Google Chrome.  Regardless, be prepared for an exercise in government electronic forms, which can be frustrating. Try to remember that the e-forms are cutting your wait time in half from a paper form filing.

You will need to upload a document containing your signed and notarized trust. The entire trust can’t be more than 30MB, so take care when scanning to use an appropriate black/white or document setting with a smaller file size output.

You will also need to upload a copy of your signature. The easiest way to do this is to print out the first page of Form 1 and complete boxes 7, 8, and 9. From there, you can scan the page and upload it as part of your electronic Form 1 submission.

Make sure you fill in box 4H, or the information you will be engraving. Keep in mind that you must engrave the full name of the trust – no abbreviations.

Form 4 tips:

2a  - the transferee's name and address is the name of where you plan on storing the items. If you want to store the items somewhere else you must update the ATF with the address if the state that you plan to store the NFA firearms changes.

4a  should contain the manufacturer’s name and address

4b  should contain the type of firearm(Silencer, SBR, SBS, Machine Gun, AOW, DD)

6a  use your social security number..

10 the dealer or executor of an estate will sign here.  This is the person who the item is being obtained from, or the transferor

13-14  You must answer these truthfully, if you answer yes to any you will probably not be allowed to purchase.  Once exception to this is question 13d for certain transfers

15  Should contain your trust name and the reason why you want or find it necessary to possess these items. You should sign the document as “Trustee of the XXXXX Gun Trust.”

16 - 17 Ignore these for Trust or business purchases as they are not necessary.

What about engraving? 

If you manufacture an SBR (short-barreled rifle) or SBS, (short-barreled shotgun) then you will need to engrave it with the full name of your trust (no abbreviations) along with the serial number, the model, caliber/gauge and the city and state code. These markings must be in a conspicuous area where they won’t be destroyed and must be at a minimum depth of .003 in and a font size at least 1/16 inch. 

What do I do with the trust once I have my stamp?

I suggest keeping the printed and notarized copy of the trust in a safe place. You should also safeguard the digital copy of the trust in case you want to amend it at a later date, especially in the case of adding or deleting Trustees through the amendment portion. I also advise clients to make copies of the Trust Certificate and the Form (1 or 4) for each Trustee to carry with them anytime they are transporting or using NFA items from the trust. The ATF has the right to inspect any NFA item at any time for proper registration. In case there is ever any question about the lawful use of the items, the Trust certificate should make it clear as to their legal status. You could even shrink those two documents down, laminate them, and keep them in your shooting bag. 

What do I need to do to travel to another state?

If you are transporting a destructive device, machine gun,  short-barreled shotgun, or SBR (short-barreled rifle), you  will need to submit ATF Form 5320.20. If you are transporting a suppressor,  you do not need to notify ATF. If you are permanently changing the address of the trust (or Transferee) from that listed on the ATF Form 1/4 to a new state, you should notify ATF before the move by sending in Form 5320.20.  Let me say that one more time … you must have an approved Form 20 BEFORE you transport any of your NFA items (excepting suppressors and AOWs) across state lines. If you are moving to a state that restricts ownership or use of NFA items, you may want to consult with a firearms attorney in your new state to discuss your options, they may include: 

  • Any co-trustee residing in your current state of residence may store the offending NFA items so long as they retain the status of joint trustee.
  • You may store the offending NFA items in a safe deposit box in your current state of residence. 
  • You may store the offending NFA items at the home of a friend or relative in your current state of residence in a locked room or container to which only one of the trustees has the key or combination.  If you choose this option then you should provide your friend or relative with a copy of the trust, the registration forms, and a letter from the settlor authorizing storage of the firearm at that location.