Take Steps to Mitigate Risk When an Estate Owns Firearms

Take Steps to Mitigate Risk When an Estate Owns Firearms

Guest Post By Matthew F. Erskine, Esq.
Personal Property | 2-minute read
When an Estate Includes Guns | Estate Firearms | Estate Risk: Guns

Recently, I wrote on planning for estates that contain firearms, but what happens after the death of the owner? Executors and trustees of estates that contain firearms[1] face unique risks and responsibilities. Here are some of the risks and steps that they can take to mitigate them:

The two biggest risks facing an executor or trustee in holding firearms are the legal complications and safety concerns. Firearms ownership and transfer are subject to complex Federal and State laws, and owners of firearms that are used in the commission of crimes may be liable for damages to the victims of those crimes. Executors and trustees must ensure that the transfer of firearms is done legally to avoid potential criminal liability.

Some steps to mitigate risks include:

  • Understanding the legal issues: Executors and trustees should familiarize themselves with Federal and State laws regarding firearms ownership and transfer. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in firearms and estate planning can provide valuable guidance in navigating these legal issues.
  • Handling Firearms: Executors and trustees should be knowledgeable about firearms laws and regulations to ensure that the transfer of firearms is done legally and safely. They should also be responsible and trustworthy individuals who can handle the unique challenges associated with firearms.
  • Keep accurate records: Executors and trustees should maintain accurate records of firearms, including the make, model, and serial number of each firearm. These records can help ensure that the transfer of firearms is done legally and can assist in managing the estate.
  • Refuse to accept Firearms. An executor or trustee can refuse to accept firearms in an estate or trust. Executors and trustees have the right to decline to administer an estate or trust if they feel that they are not equipped to handle the unique challenges associated with firearms. In such cases, the executor or trustee can petition the court to appoint a different executor or trustee who is better suited to handle firearms.

In conclusion, executors and trustees of estates that contain firearms must take extra precautions to ensure that the transfer of firearms is done legally and safely. By understanding the legal issues, choosing the right executor or trustee, considering a gun trust, keeping accurate records, and exploring buyback programs, they can mitigate the risks associated with firearms in estate planning.


[1] This article deals with firearms as defined in USC sec. 5845. Guns manufactured prior to 1898 are not considered firearms for federal purposes and should be handled as antiques.




Matthew F. Erskine is a Partner at Erskine and Erskine, the Worcester, MA law firm specializing in Estate Planning, Estate Administration, and Asset Preservation/Wealth Management.  Matthew is the fourth generation of his family to practice law in Worcester.  He holds a JD from Suffolk University.

Matthew specializes in providing legal and fiduciary services for families, estates, and businesses with unique assets or issues. Matt is client-focused, ensuring holistic financial security while preserving the ownership of a unique – but often illiquid – asset for the client and the family.

Published in magazines such as Forbes, Accounting Today, Family Wealth Report, FA Magazine, and others, Matt writes extensively across topics related to estate planning, estate administration, wealth transfer, preservation, and strategy.

The firm Erskine and Erskine can ce found at erskineanderskine.com. He can be reached at m.erskine@erskineco.com



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