Using a Lawyer to Set Up an NFA Trust

By Derek Prosser

A previous post introduced NFA Trusts for Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston gun owners, whether they’re new to firearm ownership or are just enthusiasts.

In this entry we examine why you’d want an NFA Trust, should you use a lawyer instead of an online service, what to look for in a lawyer, and what you should expect by hiring a lawyer to assist you in establishing the Gun Trust.

NFA Trust Background
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-defined weapons.

While individuals can set up a gun trust on their own, the laws and procedures are often complicated and confusing, especially for those new to gun ownership or trusts in general.

A quick NFA Trust or Gun Trust search via Google will return a dizzying amount 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, it’s best to consult with an attorney familiar with NFA Trusts in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston to meet your specific needs.

The following information will help you in discussing gun trusts with a lawyer.

Experienced gun owners will already know these terms, but just in case you’re unfamiliar with NFA Trusts or you’re new to firearm ownership, here are a few terms that will aid you in discussing Gun Trusts with a lawyer.

  • NFA: The National Firearms Act, which imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. (NFA Q&A.)
  • Title II: Refers to certain firearms, explosive munitions, and other devices that are federally regulated in the United States by the NFA. These can include machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, silencers or suppressors, and antique firearms.
  • Class 3 (or Class III): A special occupational tax levied against a dealer for the ability to sell firearms. This is often misapplied to NFA restricted items, which are in Title II.
  • Form 4: Is an application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm and is the form you will send in with your fee for an NFA item.
  • Trust: In broad terms, it’s the organized entity that owns designated property — in this case, firearms and other NFA-designated items.
  • Trustee: A designated individual that can make decisions based on the Trust and, in the case of an NFA Trust, those who have access to and can use the restricted weapons or assets.

Why Set Up an NFA Trust?
There are many reasons to do this (see benefits in previous post), but to briefly revisit, many gun owners want to:

  • Easily, safely, and legally transfer firearms and NFA items to family members upon death.
  • More easily purchase NFA items like suppressors.
  • Buying NFA items via a Gun Trust is much faster than buying as an individual because securing the signature of a chief law enforcement officer in the county where you live is not a part of the process in a trust.

Why Use a Lawyer Instead of an Online Service?
For new gun owners and enthusiasts looking to expand their collections, there is absolutely no substitute for sitting down with someone, shaking a hand, looking him or her in the eye, and having a conversation.

Yes, the Internet provides billion of How To articles, but can it answer a question the minute it pops into your head to meet your exact situation?

Lawyers provide a number of benefits to the drafting and implementation of a Gun Trust. While there are some aspects that are form letter-like, there will be sections that are customized to your specific situation, and it’s best to consult with an attorney who has experience in customizing a Trust with related documentation.

Because a Gun Trust has additional intricacies and requirements above and beyond a regular estate Trust, you want to have the backup and support of someone who can work with you and help untangle the mess.

In the context of the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) and gun transactions, a lawyer can provide extensive support, ongoing counsel, and usually a guarantee of their work.

While it may cost you more money out of pocket than using an online service, you are paying for peace of mind in knowing the Gun Trust is set up properly. If there is ever an issue with the BATFE and a Gun Trust, people who use the fill-in-the-blank forms from the Internet are on their own, while those who hire attorneys have the experience and expertise of their lawyer to call upon.

Lawyers also carry malpractice insurance to cover their work in the event that there was a mistake by the drafter that resulted in litigation.

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.