Guns are regulated by both federal and state law. Only certain individuals can possess and use a weapon, and failure to follow these regulations can result in criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, when the deceased passes a gun, these rules are sometimes ignored, resulting in a very different kind of inheritance—a jail sentence.
If the gun passes with your general property, it could be going to someone under age, a convicted felon, or someone mentally incompetent. As none of these individuals are permitted to own a gun, that could create grounds for an unintentional criminal charge.
Gun trusts allow you to pass firearms in a way that will avoid most legal complications. Everyone who owns guns and is working on an estate plan should consider how their weapons will be passed because they often should not be included in a traditional will.
National and Michigan Law Regarding Firearms
The National Firearms Act (NFA) applies an equal force to Michigan firearms, including
- Fully automatic firearms
- Short-barreled rifles
- Short-barreled shotguns
- Machine guns
- Destructive devices
The NFA imposes a tax on certain kinds of guns and restricts possession and transfer. Only the person that pays the gun tax can possess the firearm.
In Michigan, you must submit fingerprints and have your photo taken to acquire an NFA firearm in your own name. You must also pay a $200 fee. Previously, you were also required to obtain the signature of the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in the jurisdiction in which you live. However, this requirement changed in 2016 so that the signature is no longer required.
Advantages of a Michigan Gun Trust
Because only the person that has been approved own an NFA firearm can possess it, you can actually be committing a crime to have the firearm accessible in your home. As such, creating a gun trust even when you first acquire the firearm can help you avoid legal problems.
When you own a gun in a trust, multiple people can also possess the firearm legally. However, those individuals responsible for the weapon must still submit photographs and fingerprints with an NFA transfer application. That way, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives can still perform a background check on those individuals responsible for the firearm.
Beneficiaries of the gun trust, however, do not have to submit photographs and fingerprints for a background check.
When you pass, there is no real need to change the substantive portions of the trust. Instead, the people you have already designated as trustees can legally continue to possess the weapon without negative legal consequences or taking extra steps to transfer the gun.
Gun trusts are important, and having a properly drafted gun trust is crucial to your loved ones. Andrew Byers can help you create the document you need for proper firearms transfer. Call for more information.