One of the ways to expedite the purchase process for a suppressor is to set up a trust. It’s easy to waltz into your local gun shop and set up a free trust. Most gun stores around here at least, have a 1-4 page scripted trust document they are more than happy to slap your name on in the interest of selling you the can behind the counter, but that doesn’t create the magical legal shield you imagine in your head.
Early in November estate lawyer (loyal customer, retired airborne ranger and fellow firearm fanatic) Dennis Brislawn
sat down with the West Coast Armory
ninjas to give us a class on trusts, and it was an eye-opener. It turns out that most of those free trusts are worth every dime you spend.
I’m going to start out this series by attempting to describe what a trust is as simply as I can. As explained to us in the class, conceptually a trust is a “box” in which property is kept. As grantor (settlor, trustor, donator, creator…), I own this box and I put my stuff in it; I can provide benefits from this box to the people I select (benificiaries), and I can appoint someone to operate the box: a trustee, who must follow and enforce all the rules of the box as I have written them. (I can be this trustee.)
This means if I have a silencer stored in my box, then anyone I’ve listed as a benficiary also gets to play with my silencer, as long as they follow the rules of the box. It’s the trustee’s job to make sure they follow these rules. So what can these special “boxes” do for gun owners?
First of all, it means we can buy NFA regulated items without a CLEO signature. Since it is a legal entity purchasing the item, and not the individual, this necessity is bypassed – as well as the need to submit fingerprint cards and photographs. (You will still go through a NICS check, though.) The ATF will review the complete trust; if your trust owns unregulated firearms, they may need to be disclosed. In one submission of a trust by attorney Dennis Brislawn, he provided a Schedule B that lists any unregulated firearms but left it blank as “not required”. The ATF may reject the trust for this reason, but he wanted to see.
A trust also provides a convenient place to list all of your firearms. In our trusts we established “Schedule B” as a listing of all our unregulated toys: guns, holsters, mag pouches, slings, anything we want. I have all my firearms, descriptions of each and serial numbers listed in one happy place. I have a legal registry of my documents that still retains my privacy. (While information about your assets can be subpoenaed if you are sued, a trust isn’t a matter of public records – it’s between you and your lawyer.) As someone who used to work in insurance I get far too excited over this notion. Take that insurance companies.
Trusts are helpful for estate security, as well. They provide a distrubution plan for all your assets without necessitating probate
. So you can parcel out your items without having to go to court, keeping your property out of the public eye. A well written firearms trust also assures that, even if your loved ones don’t have knowledge of firearms laws, your guns will be safely and legally transferred during life or after. The extra security provided is particularly important for firearms because of the state to state differences regarding transfer and ownership. Providing for your firearms in a trust gives you the opportunity to leave specific instructions on what to do with your firearms upon death or incapacity. This means not leaving your black rifle to Aunt Melinda in Connecticut or your handgun to your 5 year old, where it isn’t legal for them to do the transfer, or for them to accept or own the firearm. Do be careful with this, though, as a trust can be worded to include ALL your possessions or ONLY those listed, and can trump your written will.
I’m going to write a little bit more on trusts, because I think it’s an important topic for firearms owners to be aware of. In the mean time, if you want to find out more you can check out the NFA Gun Trust Lawyer Blog