The Value of NFA Trusts for Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston Gun Owners

By Derek Prosser

If you already own firearms, chances are you’re familiar with NFA Gun Trusts. But for the sake of this post, let’s assume you have no idea what gun trusts are or why you’d want one.

An increasing number of gun owners are interested in expanding their collections by purchasing additional items like suppressors, fully-automatic machine guns, or other weapons whose sale is restricted by federal gun law, or the National Firearms Act (NFA).
An NFA Trust, also known as a Gun Trust, is a legal entity that helps gun owners and enthusiasts handle the red tape that’s associated with personal ownership of NFA weapons.

While individuals can set up gun trust on their own, the laws and procedures are often complicated and confusing, especially for those new to gun ownership or those who are expanding their collections with NFA items.

A quick NFA Trust or Gun Trust search via Google will return a dizzying about of information, pseudo-legal advice, and commentary from all walks of life and opinions.
Because of the complexity and flux of federal and state gun laws, its best to consult with an attorney familiar with NFA Trusts in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.

Yes, there is a cost associated with this, a bit more so than if you tried to set up a trust on your own. But working with a lawyer, you’ve paid for a peace of mind knowing that the gun trust is set up properly and will do what you expect. There’s “no muss, no fuss” with this approach.

While this site covers what a gun trust is and what the benefits are, in this post we’re going to refresh in as little legalese as possible so everything is handy.

What a Gun Trust IsAt its most basic, an NFA Trust or Gun Trust is really an estate planning tool. It is specifically designed for those who own property that is regulated by the NFA. These can include Title II (Class 3) firearms such as machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, suppressors, among others.

A gun trust has the same benefits of a normal trust but contains special provisions to ensure that the trustees and other responsible parties do not run afoul of the NFA and become “accidental felons.”

Gun trusts allow owners of regulated firearms to use and share them legally with family members and to pass them to future generations. The trusts continue to gain in popularity because they offer legal protection from potential future laws, which may ban the possession or sale of certain firearms.

What a Gun Trust Is NotA Gun Trust is NOT a way to circumvent the BAFTE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). An NFA Gun Trust will NOT allow you to violate or bypass state or federal laws and restrictions.

-Anyone — known as a “trustee” — purchasing an item on behalf of the Trust still must comply with the Brady Act.

-If you want to cross state lines — known as “interstate transfer” — with an NFA item — known as any destructive device, machine gun, short barreled- rife, or short-barreled shotgun, for example — for a competition, moving, or hunting in another state (among other reasons) you must notify the BATFE in advance via a Form 5320.20

-A Gun Trust does not allow you to take an NFA item to a state that does not allow it — an example would be taking a short-barreled rifle to New York or California as they are illegal to possess.

-If you plan to move and take NFA items with you, you still must file Form 20 (see links above) with the BATFE and inform the organization of the new address where the NFA items will be located. It’s best to do this months in advance, not weeks.
Benefits of a Gun Trust
If you want to purchase as an individual an item that is regulated by the NFA, you must go through a complicated applications process — especially for new or less experienced gun owners. This process involves: fingerprints, photos, and an age-old requirement that a chief law enforcement officer (“CLEO”) in the county where you live sign off on the application.

There are many benefits of setting up an NFA Trust in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, including:

CLEO is Not Required. The BATF mandates that individuals get the approval of the CLEO and, in many cases, local sheriffs refuse to sign off on a purchase for various reasons, which makes buying an NFA weapon nearly impossible for an individual. An NFA Trust works around this issue.

Fingerprint Cards are Not Required. For an individual, the BATF requires two sets of fingerprint cards to go with Form 4 transfers. This does not apply to an NFA gun trust.

Owner Photograph is Not Required. An individual is required to provide a photograph with the application. This does not apply to an NFA gun trust.

Continuity. An NFA firearm trust can allow various people to possess and use Class 3 weapons owned by the trust. Without a trust, the individual owner — and no one else — can possess or use the item(s).

Probate. There is no requirement to transfer the gun assets upon the death or legal incapacity of a trustee or beneficiary. When a trustee dies, all of his or her property must be distributed through the legal process of probate, which can be a long, exhaustive process depending on the estate. Probate also requires a high degree of liability for the person handling the estate — the executor — to ensure that all NFA items are properly transferred in accordance with state and federal law.

Trusts are Confidential. Trusts are not filed with any federal, state, or local government law enforcement entity, other than the BATF, and are not required to file yearly accounting statements, disclose assets, or disclose the trustees or beneficiaries of the trust. If the gun trust buys an NFA Class 3 weapon, a copy of the trust itself must be filed with Form 4, but the trust and your name only show up on the tax rolls of the BATF. Since it is a tax related filing, it is exempt from most subpoenas and public records requests.

No Filing Fees. Since nothing is filed with any government entity, there are no filing fees for someone to copy and file it in a government database.

Protecting Your Collection. NFA Trusts in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston should be set up to protect your entire firearms collection, not just NFA items, from seizure by creditors and the creditors of your beneficiaries, ensuring the collection is preserved for future generations of your family to use and enjoy.

Multiple users. Multiple users authorized under the gun trust can use and possess the NFA items without committing a felony. To contrast: If you are married and you purchase a suppressor, you alone are allowed to have possession and control of that suppressor. If you leave it accessible in the home and a spouse or teen-ager has access to it, they may be prosecuted for “constructive possession” of a firearm, which is a felony. By having a spouse and close family and friends as trustees on your gun trust you avoid that potential problem since everybody listed will be allowed to have control and possession.

About the Author
Derek Prosser understands that clients need help and need answers and that in order to properly address those concerns, clients need to deal with an attorney first and always, not just an assistant or paralegal.  By effectively counseling from the outset of a case, Toronjo & Prosser Law can anticipate and address potential problems before they arise, as opposed to when they’ve already surfaced (the “Counsel Later” approach), and, in the end, strive for a seamless representation.