What is a Florida Gun Trust?
A Florida gun trust is a revocable trust created to take title to a firearm as a separate legal entity. Often called an NFA trust, a Florida gun trust can take title to any legally owned weapon. The most common weapons owned by a Florida gun trust include all weapons designated under the National Firearms Act, Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968. These firearms include fully automatic machine guns, short-barrel shotguns, silencers and suppressors, and destructive devices (Molotov cocktails, bazookas, etc.).
When using a gun trust, the trust itself owns the firearm, not any individual. With a revocable gun trust, the names of the trustees and beneficiaries can be changed during the grantor’s lifetime.
Understanding Florida Gun Trusts
There are four reasons people get a gun trust in Florida:
- Greater Control During Incapacity or Death. Without a gun trust, the government has the right to confiscate any Title II firearms upon the incapacity or death of the registrant. A gun trust can ensure that the other trustees can still use the NFA firearms and provide a controlled method to transfer ownership of the firearms to a beneficiary. In addition, because ownership of the gun stays in the trust even after the grantor’s death, the beneficaries don’t have to be a transfer tax, file an ATF transfer form, or get approval from local law enforcmeent.
- Privacy. A Florida gun trust is a private document. The trusts are not registered with Florida, and the general public cannot look up the trust online. Upon the death of the trust grantor (creator), the gun trust will not be filed or recorded.
- Share Use of Firearms. Without a Florida gun trust, the only permitted owner of the NFA firearm would be the individual registrant. However, firearms owned by the gun trust can be used by any trustees of the trust.
- Avoid Criminal Liability. Title II firearms are heavily regulated, particualrlry when it comes to transport and use of the firearms. A gun trust allows friends and family to use the guns without worrying about felonies and other criminal liability.
Florida gun trusts can also be referred to as:
- NFA trusts
- Class 3 trusts
- Firearms trusts
- Title II trusts
A gun trust is not required to purchase and own a Title II firearm. Under the NFA, a Title II firearm can be owned by an individual or an entity (such as a gun trust).
Title I Weapon vs. Title II Weapon
Under the National Firearms Act (NFA), weapons classified as Title I guns include ordinary pistols, rifles, and revolvers. Most firearms owned in the U.S. are Title I firearms. It is uncommon to use a Florida gun trust to own these weapons.
On the other hand, Title II firearms are much more regulated. Under the NFA, a Title II firearm can only be used legally by the registrant. Transferring ownership of a Title II firearm to any other person can be a felony. These firearms can also only be sold by firearm dealers with a Class 3 license.
Some states ban the sale of Title II weapons, but not Florida.
Violations of the NFA can result in up to 10 years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines for an individual and $500,000 in fines for an entity, such as a gun trust.
A Title II weapon transferred to another person in violation of the NFA is subject to confiscation by the federal government.
Asset Protection of Firearms
Some firearms, especially Title II guns, can be very valuable. Owners of these guns are sometimes concerned that a judgment creditor could seek a sheriff’s levy of the firearm.
A gun trust does not usually provide any asset protection from a judgment creditor. Most gun trusts are revocable trusts, and revocable trusts do not provide any asset protection.
However, because of the significant difficulty behind the transfer, sale, and ownership of Title II firearms, the value of the firearms to a judgment creditor is often much less than the purchase price of the firearms. Judgment creditors typically want to spend their time collecting assets whose value is not burdened by federal regulation.
Difference Between a Regular Trust and Gun Trust
A revocable living trust is used to transfer assets upon death to a person’s beneficiaries. While a Florida gun trust is a type of revocable living trust, a gun trust has special provisions to comply with the NFA.
Properly drafted, a gun trust should not leave Title II firearms to designated beneficiaries merely when they reach a certain age. Instead, the trust should require the trustee to note the state where the beneficiary lives, whether that state allows that beneficiary to own and possess the firearm, and whether that beneficiary is physically and mentally capable of possessing the firearm.
In addition, a grantor should keep in mind that a successor trustee may not be as knowledgeable about NFA regulations as the grantor themselves. Therefore, the trust document should help explain to the successor trustee how to exercise discretion in the handling and transferring any Class II firearms owned by the gun trust.
Florida Gun Trust Lawyer
You must use a lawyer to create a Florida gun trust—you cannot do it on your own. The Supreme Court of Florida has held that it would be the unauthorized practice of law for a nonlawyer to draft a living trust. A Florida gun trust is a type of living trust. Worst case—using a free or low-cost gun trust that ends up invalid could subject an operator of the gun to federal criminal liability.
How much does a gun trust cost in Florida from a lawyer? A gun trust is typically more specialized than a regular living trust. A lawyer experienced with gun trusts will typically charge between $2,000 and $3,000 to create a Florida gun trust.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are gun trusts still worth it?
A gun trust in Florida is worth doing for anyone owning a Title II firearm in order to ensure maximum flexibility of ownership, use, and inheritance.
What is the point of a gun trust?
The purpose of a gun trust is (1) to have greater control over the ownership and transfer of Title II firearms during incapacity or death, (2) privacy, (3) to share use of the firearms with family and friends more easily, and (4) to avoid situations leading to criminal liability.
How much does it cost to set up a gun trust?
There are cheap forms available from gun retailers, but these have great risks as they are offered by people who want to sell the firearms, not by attorneys. An attorney-drafted gun trust in Florida will likely cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
Do you need a gun trust in Florida?
You are not legally required to have a gun trust in Florida. However, without a gun trust, use and ownership of a Title II gun is restricted to the registrant.
Are gun trusts legal?
Gun trusts are legal. Under the NFA, a Title II firearm may be owned by an individual or an entity (such as a gun trust).
Last updated on November 20, 2021