This may be a controversial topic for California, but I have a client who’s interested in the answer, and I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and write about what I found. (Yes, I did see the opportunity for a pun there, but I chose to take the higher ground)
If you own a firearm (to use the legal term), and you have (or want) an estate plan, then it would be a good idea to specifically include it. There are a lot of rules around ownership and transfer of firearms, so a will or trust that includes them should have special language to accommodate those laws. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Is your chosen executor/trustee qualified to possess a firearm? Federal and state laws prohibit certain people from owning firearms – for example, convicted felons and drug addicts. These rules apply to executors and trustees as much as they do to people purchasing guns. If your chosen executor/trustee is not qualified, consider having a separate trustee just for your firearms (or possibly an entire trust just for your firearms). Otherwise, the executor/trustee is required by law to lock up the guns and/or have a licensed dealer store them, which can be a hassle.
Is your chosen beneficiary qualified to possess a firearm? Rules about who can possess a firearm apply even more to the person you want to pass them on to. Make sure your trustee has the power not to distribute if the beneficiary cannot possess a firearm. Also make sure you have a backup beneficiary in the event this occurs. As a last resort, consider donating the firearms to a non-profit, like the NRA, if none of your beneficiaries are qualified to possess a firearm.
Can your executor/trustee get access to your firearms? It will be difficult for your executor/trustee to distribute your firearms if he doesn’t know where they are or can’t get to them. Make sure to leave instructions for him, so his job is a little easier.
Does your executor/trustee have authority to distribute firearms? This seems like a silly question, but a boilerplate trust may not include some of the powers a trustee would need to distribute a firearm in accordance with state and federal law. There are special forms that need to be filled out, background checks that have to be conducted, and fees that must be paid. Make sure the trust gives the trustee the power to do all these things.
There are some other considerations too, but these will get you thinking in the right direction. If you’d like to hear more, you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.