The State of Florida allows residents to possess certain firearms and accessories that are regulated under Title II, Class 3, of the National Firearms Act. These items include, for example, machine guns, silencers, and short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles. Historically, gun trusts were used as a way to avoid the process of applying to the for an owner’s permit. These applications had to be certified and submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) by a city or county Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO), some of whom were reluctant to do so.
What is a gun trust? A gun trust is created by a grantor, who will name one or more trustees who must be 18 and not legally barred from possessing a firearm. Any trustee may possess any firearm held within the trust. The grantor should also name at least one beneficiary, who needn’t be 18, to receive possession of the firearm upon the grantor’s death, incapacity or other specific event.
Although a 2016 change in the law now requires submission of an ATF application, fingerprints, and passport photos for the grantor and each potential trustee, creating a gun trust is still a wise addition to an estate plan. The firearms are registered to the trust and not to individuals, adding a level of privacy and making it easier to pass along ownership. If regulatory changes occur that affect the right to possess Class 3 weapons, trustees and beneficiaries would likely be unaffected. Also, the use of a trust helps avoid a lengthy probate process.
A Florida NFA gun trust is a great tool for collectors and enthusiasts to access and maintain possession of their Class 3 firearms, and to provide for the eventual disposition of these guns. It’s always prudent to speak with an experienced trusts and estates attorney when creating a gun trust.