FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
As a reminder nothing on this website should be taken as legal advice absent a consultation. Use of this website is for informational purposes only and does not replace or supplant legal advice and does not create an Attorney-Client relationship. If you are in need of legal advice, please call my office and set up a consultation.
Gun trusts are unlike any other asset trust. They are specifically designed for the ownership and transfer of firearms during life and after death. All firearms are capable of being transferred into a Gun Trust (otherwise known as an NFA trust) including NFA "Class III" Firearms. To learn about Class III weapons and their ownership give me a call or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gun trusts provide protection and privacy for your firearms.
IT IS A POTENTIAL FELONY FOR ANYONE OTHER THAN THE ORIGINAL PURCHASER OR A CO-TRUSTEE IN A TRUST TO POSSESS AN NFA WEAPON. THERE IS NO FAMILY EXCEPTION! IF YOU ELECT TO PURCHASE WITHOUT A TRUST THIS MEANS THAT ONLY YOU, THE PURCHASER, ARE ABLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO THE NFA WEAPONS.
When you pass away, an inventory of your estate will be done including your firearms. If you leave firearms in a will, that will is included as part of the public record and anyone who wishes can go to the county courthouse to access and see those gifts in your will.
In the near future, many counties may start and greatly expand the indexing their Wills for online searches, further exposing your assets to the public eye. To avoid this, many of my clients opt to create a Gun Trust where they re-title all of their weapons. After the guns are re-titled into the trust, when you pass away, the trust will allow for the transfer of the weapons outside the of the probate of the estate. This ensures that the guns are passed on as intended and not found in the public record for all to see. The gun trust contains all of the guns that an individual or family owns and provides for how they should be transferred by naming successor trustees. Any gun in the trust, with the notable exception of Class III weapons, can be sold or gifted and the trust can easily be updated to reflect this by the trustor/settlor of the trust with or without the assistance of a lawyer.
How much does a Gun Trust cost?
I currently charge a flat rate of $500.00 for the Trust and the initial co-trustees.
I proudly offer a discount for any prior or current military personnel, first responders, current NRA members, members of Firearm Owners Against Crime or the Second Amendment Foundation. Please mention your service and/or if you serve with or belong to any of these organizations when you call or email me.
If you find another Attorney who has a lower price than I offer, let me know, as I would be happy to match and beat the fee after verifying that it is being offered. I do not match non-Attorney Trusts as they are "as-is" products often with no disclosure as to who is writing them and are often not even gun trusts. See below for what I can do if you currently have one of these documents and need it to be corrected.
Why are your competitors charging more/less?
You would have to ask them. The competitors that I know of who are charging less are not Attorneys and often take a "Living" or Revocable Trust they found somewhere and attempt to use it as a Class 3 Trust. While this may work in the short term there is the definite possibility that these Trusts are not set up correctly and may be terminated at a later date when the inadequacies become apparent either by the BAFTE or by a judge. They are almost always offered "as-is" and with a big disclaimer like "I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY". Getting a budget Trust now might cost you a lot more in the future if and when it needs to be re-written due to changes in the law, changes in family circumstances or changes in location.
As for the more expensive competitors, the rates differ based on geographic location, overhead costs, Attorney rates and/or referral fees.
What if suppressors are removed from the NFA?
The trusts I write are designed with changes to the law in mind. If the suppressors are removed from the National Firearms Act (NFA) completely and the individual states are left to decide how to handle them and Pennsylvania treats them like any other firearm then they will be put into the schedule just like any other firearm. The benefits of the trust will still remain including the named beneficiary/beneficiaries you have chosen and the private passage of your firearms, including the suppressors.
Can I use this as part of my Estate Plan?
Absolutely. In fact, I encourage all of my clients to use the Trust as part of a larger Estate Plan that takes into account all of the assets and specifically values the gun collection. I offer the Trust as part of my Estate Planning practice and have had great success in educating all of my clients about the benefits of a well thought out and well-documented valuation of their collections and clear instructions of the recipients of the weapons. We all know of a friend who passed suddenly only to hear that his family sold his weapons for less than their value simply because no one knew how much they are worth. I make sure that each client is aware of this and provides his/her family extensive documentation to ensure that this does not happen to their heirlooms and collector's pieces.
How long will it be before I receive my Trust?
Typically I am able to finish your Trust and have it in the mail to you within two business days after payment is made. Your complete Trust packet will include all the documents you require to execute your Trust, have documentation for its existence to go along with your tax stamp, add and remove co-Trustees, and examples of how to fill out the required forms for the BAFTE.
How much are updates?
Almost all updates are able to be performed by the Trustor/Trustee of the trust (you) without any need for an attorney.
The included forms allow you to add, remove or resign any current co-trustee. In addition you are able to buy, sell and relocate weapons in the Trust without the assistance of an Attorney.
Significant changes are done on a case-by-case basis, though most questions can be answered without an additional fee.
How much do you charge for a consultation?
I do not charge for initial consultations when performed over the phone and am happy to answer general questions. Be aware, however, that until we have a paid for attorney-client relationship any advice given is general advice. This is the same for almost all lawyers and is also included in the disclaimer on this website located at the bottom of the screen. That being said give me a call to discuss what questions you have at (724) 776-8000.
Can you fix my poorly written Trust?
As part of my practice, I have been rewriting poorly written trusts that came from non-Attorneys, other Attorneys and self-created documents using popular software programs.
While these Trusts seemed "good enough" at the time, most clients quickly realize that a poorly written Trust fails to recognize all the nuances of the ownership of Class III and traditional weapons. Simple 'fill-in-the blank' forms that are passed around often come into my practice and need to be completely re-written as not only are they not gun trusts, they are barely able to stand as a basic revocable trust. Some of these are being sold "as-is" with large I AM NOT A LAWYER disclaimers. This should be a red flag for anyone entrusting someone to write a document that needs to stand up in court if questioned.
Most poorly written Trusts can be completely re-written without additional transfer taxes or changing the name of the Trust. Some are so bad they cannot bere-done and a new Trust has to be created. Pricing is dependent on the original document, whether it can be amended or restated and what alterations need to be done.
How many guns can I put in my Trust?
There is no limit to how many guns you can put in your Trust. Once the Trust is established it can hold as many, or as few, weapons as you see fit. It can hold both NFA/Class III weapons as well as non-NFA traditional weapons. For NFA weapons, you will be responsible for paying for each tax stamp as you seek to acquire new weapons. There may also be additional fees depending on the FFL for the transfer background check at the time of pick-up or purchase.
Can I put other assets in my Trust besides guns and parts?
No. I write the NFA Trust as a separate Trust for estate planning. It is not intended, nor is it written to be used for other assets with the exception of cash and liquid assets used to keep the Trust funded. I write all manner of Estate Planning documents including Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts which are designed with the specific purpose of holding these assets. The Gun Trust is for guns.
I live in another State, can you write me a Trust?
No. You do not need to be a lawyer to write a Trust in most jurisdictions. However, I limit my practice to Pennsylvania Trusts as I feel it would be a disservice to you as a client to write a Trust in a jurisdiction I do not practice in. The nuances of local and state laws can vary widely and as my practice and office are located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I keep my practice limited to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's jurisdiction. I am also admitted to practice law in Texas but currently am not actively seeking clients due to the geographic distance.
Is the ATF allowed to search my home to 'inspect' my weapons?
The short answer here is no absent a warrant or other justified circumstances. Owning NFA weapons does not surrender any of your rights under the Constitution. As far as I can tell, this rumor got started a while back when it was more common to become an firearms dealer (FFL) in order to acquire NFA weapons. FFL's are subject to ATF inspection. A Trust is not an FFL and is not subject to the same inspections.
Does a Trust have to go through a background check?
The Trust, as a legal document, does not go through a background check. You or your co-Trustee acquiring the weapon do have to go through a background check before acquiring the weapon. THERE IS NO EXCEPTION TO THE BACKGROUND CHECK BY USING A TRUST IN PENNSYLVANIA.
Can non-family members be co-Trustees on my Trust?
So long as they are 18 or older and are not a prohibited person there is no reason they cannot be co-Trustee's on your Trust. If they live in a jurisdiction outside of Pennsylvania they will need to be aware of any state laws which prohibit them from serving in this capacity. If they are a beneficiary in a prohibited state, they may be skipped or special arrangements can be made at the time of drafting for this contingency. Please let me know if any beneficiary or co-Trustee is outside of Pennsylvania at the time of drafting.
What if they outlaw Trusts being used at a later date?
The short answer to this is the same as "what if they outlaw guns"? No one can answer this question because the uncertainty upon which the legal framework would lie prevents any meaningful discussion. I and any other attorney can only write trusts based on the knowledge I have now and what I expect to reasonably occur based on that knowledge and experience. I would only answer this by saying that it is unlikely but nothing is impossible.
I saw that the ATF wrote a guy a letter that said.....?
The ATF can write advisory letters at their discretion on any number of topics. It is a good method of communication with the ATF for attorneys such as myself to get clarification on laws, regulations and policies concerning all manner of gun ownership. Individuals also get advice and letters from the ATF on any number of topics and some of those letters end up getting put online. The problem with this is that the letter that the ATF wrote to John Doe is for John Doe. You are not John Doe. Your reliance on that letter, especially if that letter is individualized, is at your own peril. To be clear, many letters are non-binding on the agency and you can and will be prosecuted for your violation of the law, no matter what they told John Doe.