What to Consider When Firearms Are Part of Your Probate Estate
If you are a gun owner in Connecticut, you have probably been thinking about how the state’s new gun laws will impact you. As you take steps to ensure you are complying with the new laws, take some time to consider how you are going to incorporate your guns into your estate planning. By making plans ahead of time, you can help ensure that your wishes will be carried out as you intended.
Gun owners should verify that their executor is legally able to possess firearms and ammunition. If you own guns, familiarize yourself with the categories of individuals that are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition in your state. Make sure that your executor does not fall into any of those categories. Also, ask your executor if he or she is comfortable dealing with this part of your estate. Think about the people you would like to have your guns after you are gone. Make sure that none of your beneficiaries are disqualified from possessing these items.
If you are an executor of an estate that includes firearms and/or ammunition, there are several considerations you should take into account so that you can distribute these items in accordance with the decedent’s wishes and in compliance with relevant state and federal laws. Be aware that, if police are called to a decedent’s home, they may take possession of any weapons that are in the home. Police are routinely called if a person has died unexpectedly at home, even if there is no suspicion of a crime. If the police do take possession of any firearms, the executor of the estate will then have to take the necessary steps to reclaim these assets. Then, the executor will be responsible for safely storing those assets until they can be distributed to any beneficiary.
Executors should also be aware of the additional administrative burden that will result if they or a specified beneficiary lives in another state. In this situation, you must comply with laws regarding interstate transfer of firearms and/or ammunition. Laws vary from state to state and, depending on the weapon and the state, an executor or beneficiary may not be able to simply take possession of the items and drive home with them.
Certain types of firearms are subject to extra federal and/or state restrictions (Connecticut residents: see this list of banned weapons under Connecticut’s “Act Concerning Gun Violence and Children’s Safety”). In order to legally possess these firearms, an individual must have appropriate documentation. If a restricted weapon is part of a probate estate, the executor of the estate will need to ensure any additional requirements are met.
Sometimes, a trust can be used to hold guns and avoid some of the administrative burden of distributing firearms as part of a probate estate. Gun owners should consult an attorney to determine if a gun trust would be beneficial in their specific situation.
It is easy for well-intentioned people to violate gun laws without knowing it. This can cause severe consequences. If firearms and/or ammunition are part of an estate, working with a knowledgeable attorney can help to avoid errors. If you want to learn more about how to incorporate your guns into your estate plan or if you are the executor of an estate that includes firearms and/or ammunition and you need help, call our office at 888-822-8778.