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Passing your guns to your heirs could be trickier than you realize

You’ve always loved fine weapons, and you have a few that you definitely want to pass down to your heirs. Maybe there’s even a pistol or a rifle in your collection that was handed down to you.

But times have changed. You can’t easily pass firearms down to your heirs without a plan. Here are the things you need to consider:

Are your guns subject to the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934?

Under terms of the NFA, under the certain firearms, including short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, fully automatic weapons and silencers, must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

If any of your firearms are subject to the NFA and unregistered, you cannot pass them to your heirs at all. You need to register them prior to your death or your heirs will have to turn them over to the authorities.

Can your intended heirs legally possess the weapons you want them to have?

State and federal laws both place restrictions on who can have firearms. If any of your heirs are forbidden from owning guns (for any reason), you won’t be able to leave them your weapons.

Even if you’re sure that your intended heir can have firearms, you may want to name a backup heir — just in case. Laws change, people make mistakes and life can be somewhat uncertain. A backup heir will at least ensure that your guns remain in the family.

Have you considered a gun trust to avoid additional problems with the transfer?

There are a lot of complex steps involved in the transfer of ownership of weapons from an estate to the estate’s heirs. A gun trust can often make the process much easier.

Gun trusts are also seen as a way to guard against changes in the law that may later prevent you from leaving your firearms to your heirs.

When you have concerns about your estate, it’s smart to speak with an experienced advocate about your options. Leaving your firearms to your heirs is possible — you just have to understand the rules.