What To Do If Your Deceased Loved One Owned a Gun (2022)

Expert Estate Planning Attorneys Explain What Happens To Guns When The Owner Dies

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), from 1986 through 2018, tens of millions of firearms were both manufactured in and imported into the United States.1Where are those guns today? They are most likely filling gun safes, closets, nightstands, and desk drawers in homes all across this country. Regardless of whether you think that is a good thing, the fact remains that firearm ownership is very common in America. When you are handling a deceased loved one’s final affairs, you must consider the chance that your loved one owned one or more firearms at the time of death.

Consider the following scenario: Your widower father just passed away, and, after making arrangements with the funeral home, you let yourself into his home to pull together some photos and other memorabilia to display at the funeral. As you are going through his closet, you discover a dozen guns on the top shelf. Some of them are obviously hunting rifles, revolvers, and standard shotguns. But some of them appear to be military-style firearms with pistol grips and mounting rails, and one of them even has a three-way selector switch near the trigger. What should you do at this point? Although there are many things to consider in a situation like this, here are a few things to keep in mind as you deal with firearms owned by a deceased loved one.

What To Do If Your Deceased Loved One Owned a Gun (1)

Learn Who Has Legal Authority To Take Possession Of The Firearms

In a scenario such as the one described above, you should first determine whether your deceased father had a will or trust in which he named someone to be in charge of his final affairs. If he did, you must find those documents as soon as possible and determine who is the named executor or personal representative under his will or the trustee of his trust. If that individual is not you, contact that person and let them know about the existence of the firearms, and encourage the executor or trustee to take appropriate steps to safeguard them.


If you are the person nominated in the estate documents, determine whether the firearms were ever transferred to the trust by the trustmaker or are owned only in the name of your loved one. In many trust-based estate plans, the trustmaker signs an assignment of personal property, a document that transfers ownership of personal property, including firearms, to the trust. If you find an assignment among the trust documents and it appears from the language that the trustmaker intended the firearms to be owned by the trust, you will typically have the legal authority to take possession of the firearms for safekeeping and later transfers.

Secure The Gun In A Safe

If the firearms are not already secured in a strong gun safe that cannot be carted away in a burglary, make arrangements to properly secure them as soon as possible, particularly when they are in an unoccupied residence. Burglaries happen every day, and an obviously unoccupied house or apartment can draw the attention of would-be burglars. If unsecured guns are in the house, their theft could ultimately lead to commission of a violent crime. In that event, crime victims could sue for civil damages or even criminal liability against the person who was responsible for, but failed to, properly secure the firearms.

If you think that keeping guns in a safe in an unoccupied residence is still too risky (and it may well be), consider placing the guns in the custody of an individual or entity that holds a Federal Firearms License (FFL) until you can determine whether and howto distribute the firearms to heirs or beneficiaries. Someone with an FFL can legally take possession of a wide variety of firearms, including guns that are not typical hunting rifles, pistols, and shotguns, such as machine guns and short barrel rifles and shotguns, and accessories such as silencers, the possession and transfer of which are subject to even more-restrictive laws. The FFL licensee will have the proper authority to possess the guns and perform necessary background checks before any transfer. The licensee will probably also have proper storage and insurance that will protect the executor or trustee from any liability should something happen to the firearms during the course of the estate or trust administration. You can look up local FFL licensees through websites to learn more about how they can help you stay out of legal trouble when selling or otherwise transferring firearms.

Who Cannot Legally Possess a Firearm?

Beyond safely storing and transferring the firearms it is important to remember that even though you or another family member is nominated in your loved one’s estate planning documents to handle the deceased’s final affairs, it may still be illegal for you to take possession ofthose firearms—even to transfer them to someone with an FFL. Federal law restricts certain individuals from possessing a firearm in any situation, even if that person is acting as a fiduciary of an estate or trust that owns firearms. Under federal law, prohibited persons include anyone who

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● Has been convicted by any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
● Is a fugitive from justice;
● Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (including marijuana, even if it is legal in your state);
● Has been adjudicated as being mentally defective or committed to any mental institution;
● Is an illegal alien;
● Has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces;
● Has renounced US citizenship;
● Is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or a child of an intimate partner; or
● Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

In some cases, state laws can be even more restrictive than the federal law described above. Contact an attorney who is an expert in not only federal laws but also your state’s laws regarding possession and transfer of firearms. If your deceased loved one named someone to be in charge of the firearms, or to ultimately inherit them, the named person must be able to qualify to possess a firearm under both federal and state laws. If an executor or trustee takes possession of or transfers firearms to someone who is not legally permitted to possess them, stiff penalties may apply, including up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Once you have determined who can lawfully possess your loved one’s firearms, look to any existing estate documents to determine to whom they should be distributed. Arrangements can then be made to deliver those specific firearms to the individuals named to receive them.

Gun Appraisal & Valuation From a Firearm Expert

If your loved one died without a will or trust or without otherwise specifying in estate documents who should receive the firearms,the firearms should be appraised by a valuation professional. Firearms can vary widely in value depending on a variety of factors, including their condition, their rarity, and the nature of the modifications that have been made to them.Therefore, looking up what appears to be a similar gun on a website may provide a significantly inaccurate estimate of the gun’s value. Do not attempt to value firearms on your own.

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Enlist an appraiser with significant experience in appraising firearms to help you with thistask. Appraisers can often be found at reputable pawn shops, gun stores, auction houses, and online. Be careful when choosing an appraiser. Not all appraisers are qualified to value firearms, and some less reputable appraisers may even attempt to minimizethe value of firearms in an effort to profit from your inexperience in handling such specialized items of property. Ask around at local gun shops and even check with local law enforcement to identify reputable gunsmiths or appraisers who can assist you with this task.

Federal Firearm License (FFL Transfers)

Once you have properly appraised the firearms and it is time to either transfer them to an heir or sell them, the most conservative course of action is to arrange the transfer by working with a business or an individual who holds an FFL license. Depending on the state where the guns are located, the FFL licensee will be qualified to perform any required background checks, registration requirements, or bills of sale for the individuals who are purchasing the firearms or receiving them through the terms of the will, trust, or inheritance laws of the state

If you choose not to use an intermediary with an FFL license, you should, at a minimum, get a signed, notarized statement from the individual to whom you are transferring the firearm that the recipient is not a prohibited person under either state or federal law and can legally possess a firearm. There may also be additional requirements in your state for transferring firearms. There are different classifications of firearms, some with even stricter legal requirements for ownership. Thus, it is crucial that you consult a qualified attorney in your state before making any transfer of a firearm.

Transporting Firearms Across State Lines

If your deceased loved one lived in another state and you are responsible for handling the deceased’s final affairs, exercise great caution when transporting any firearms across state lines. Because state firearms laws vary widely, it is even more important to obtain sound legal counsel before transferring guns to someone who lives in another state. In such a case, it is best to work with an FFL licensee who lives in the state where the firearms are currently located and who can take possession of the firearms and handle any future transfers of those items. Be aware that, when you place firearms in the care of an FFL licensee, the protocols that apply to a transfer to any third party also apply to returning the guns to you, including any mandatory waiting periods.

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Surrender Firearms To Local Police

Today, many people have philosophically determined that they have no use for firearms, and they desire to decrease the number of existing firearms. If none of the estate’s heirs want to inherit the firearms and no family member wants them to be sold for cash to be distributed to the heirs, consider surrendering the firearms to the local police department. By doing so, you can avoid the requirements and potential liabilities associated with transferring firearms to private buyers. This option may make even more sense if the firearms’ values are too low to justify the effort required to safely and legally sell or otherwise transfer them. If surrendering the weapons to law enforcement makes sense to you, contact your local police department to explain the situation and ask them how to go about it.

Contact Professional Estate Planning Attorneys In Arizona

Many families have enjoyed hunting, recreational or competitive shooting, and collecting guns for generations. As a result, firearms can have significant meaning and sentimental value. But, as you can see from the discussion above, transferring firearms to the next generation or selling them to third parties requires great caution. The laws surrounding firearms are many and complex. If you find yourself responsible for handling the distribution or safekeeping of a deceased loved one’s firearms, your best course of action is to get the help of an experienced Mesa estate planning attorney and a gun dealer with an FFL.

Approved and published by Adam Gunderson

What To Do If Your Deceased Loved One Owned a Gun (2)

Gunderson Law Group, P.C.

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When someone dies who gets their belongings? ›

Executors and probate

Their role is to find all the assets, pay off any taxes and debts, and distribute any leftover money, possessions and property to the deceased's heirs in accordance with the instructions in their will. Before doing this the executors need to get the court's permission to deal with the estate.

Can you inherit guns in Florida? ›

You should also ensure that the transfer is properly recorded. Florida does not require owners to register their guns or obtain a license for handguns, rifles, or shotguns, therefore you may be able to transfer these to a beneficiary easily.

Can you inherit guns in New York? ›

The person in charge must: 1) have knowledge that the decedent legally owned a gun; 2) ascertain that the beneficiary of the gun(s) may legally own a gun; and 3) adhere to proper transfer procedures.

What rights do next of kin have? ›

Does a next of kin have legal rights and responsibilities? No. The term next of kin is in common use but a next of kin has no legal powers, rights or responsibilities. In particular, they cannot give consent for providing or withholding any treatment or care.

Can you withdraw money from a deceased persons account? ›

It is illegal to withdraw money from an open account of someone who has died unless you are actually named on the account before you have informed the bank of the death and been granted an order of probate from a court of competent jurisdiction.

What does a gun trust do? ›

A gun trust authorizes you to protect your guns both during and after your lifetime without the complications that typically surface after a gun owner's passing. A gun trust is a revocable trust erected to hold the title to your guns.

Why do I need a trust for a silencer? ›

Generally speaking, if an individual purchases an NFA item like a suppressor, only that individual would be able to be in possession or use of that item and anyone else in possession could be committing a crime. This can be avoided by having those items in a Trust, with Trustees allowed to be in possession of them.

Do you need to register an inherited handgun in PA? ›

Registered. In PA "firearms" that you receive via a bequest(a will) or intestate succession(family inheritance) do not require a proper transfer.

What not to say after someone dies? ›

  • “How are you doing?”
  • “You'll be okay after a while.”
  • “I understand how you feel.”
  • “You shouldn't feel that way.”
  • “Stop crying.”
  • “At least he's in a better place; his suffering is over.”
  • “At least she lived a long life, many people die young.”
  • “She brought this on herself.”
8 Sept 2020

What does the Bible say about cremation? ›

In 2 Kings 23:16-20, Josiah took the bones out of the tomb, burned them on the altar, and “defiled it.” However, nowhere in the Old Testament does the Bible command the deceased cannot be burned, nor are there any judgments attached to those that have been cremated.

What happens immediately after death? ›

Decomposition begins several minutes after death with a process called autolysis, or self-digestion. Soon after the heart stops beating, cells become deprived of oxygen, and their acidity increases as the toxic by-products of chemical reactions begin to accumulate inside them.

Can you inherit a gun in Illinois? ›

After a gun owner dies, the executor of the estate, or preferably the trustee of his Living Trust, is tasked with the responsibility of legally transferring the gun to his or her chosen beneficiaries. However, if there is no estate plan, the surviving heirs at law are determined by Probate Court.

When you buy a gun is it automatically registered in Kentucky? ›

Handgun Purchase & Possession
Purchase Permits? Is a permit required to purchase a handgun in Kentucky?No. You are not required to have a permit to buy a handgun in Kentucky.
Handgun Registration? Do handguns need to be registered in Kentucky?No. handgun registration is not required in Kentucky.
5 more rows
12 Oct 2021

Can you inherit guns in Maryland? ›

For the transfer of a regulated firearm by inheritance to a recipient who is younger than 21 years old: (1) The title of the firearm may be transferred to the recipient; (2) The estate shall retain possession of the firearm until the recipient is 21 years old; and (3) On receipt of the firearm, the recipient shall ...

Is eldest child next of kin? ›

Siblings - brothers and sisters

In the event that the deceased person passed away with no spouse, civil partner, children or parents then their siblings are considered to be the next of kin.

Does the oldest child inherit everything? ›

No state has laws that grant favor to a first-born child in an inheritance situation. Although this tradition may have been the way of things in historic times, modern laws usually treat all heirs equally, regardless of their birth order.

Does next of kin automatically inherit? ›

Next of kin meaning

In the event of someone's death, next of kin may also be used to describe the person or people who stand to inherit if the person who died did not leave a will.

How do banks know when someone dies? ›

Who typically notifies the bank when an account holder dies? Family members or next of kin generally notify the bank when a client passes. It can also be someone who was appointed by a court to handle the deceased's financial affairs. There are also times when the bank leans of a client's passing through probate.

Do banks freeze accounts after death? ›

Is there an instance where a bank account can be frozen? Yes. If the bank account is solely titled in the name of the person who died, then the bank account will be frozen. The family will be unable to access the account until an executor has been appointed by the probate court.

Can a beneficiary withdraw money from a bank account before death? ›

Bottom line. If someone has a named beneficiary on their account, that person can withdraw money after the account owner dies. If not, the bank account is closed and its balance will be divided up according to the deceased's will or the intestate succession laws of the state.

Who owns the guns in a gun trust? ›

A gun trust is a revocable or irrevocable trust created to ensure the smooth transfer of your firearms when you pass away. The trust is a legal entity that officially owns the guns in it. The trust beneficiaries will be legally permitted to continue using the firearms after the owner's death.

Are gun trusts still worth it? ›

All of the possession and estate benefits of a gun trust still provide you and your family the protection of legal possession and a much easier process of organizing your affairs after death.

Why you need a gun? ›

While protection is a major reason that gun owners give for having a weapon, safety also is a top concern among those in non-gun households who express discomfort with having a gun in their home.

What happens to suppressor when owner dies? ›

What happens to your suppressor when you pass away? Can you pass it down to other family members? The short answer is yes, you can put your suppressors and any other NFA item in a will. If you don't have a will, the person who takes over your estate can inherit them or pass them along to the correct person.

Can I create my own gun trust? ›

Create a gun trust on your own

For people who specifically want a "Gun Trust" but they want to do it on their own, there are a couple of different options. The first is to use a template that you find online - and the second is to use one of the new NFA Trust websites that are cropping up.

What should I name my gun trust? ›

Most gun trusts are named after the settlor of gun trust or derivatives of the settlor's name. For example, if your name is Mike Smith, then you might name your gun trust: Mike Smith Gun Trust, Mike Smith Firearm Trust, Smith Gun Trust, Smith Family Gun Trust, MS Gun Trust (your initials), etc.

Can you give a gun as a gift in PA? ›

While the vast majority of guns are acquired via a sale that's regulated by Pennsylvania gun laws, there are a few other paths to legal gun ownership. Gifting of a firearm is allowed as long as the gifting is not intended to avoid a background check and the person receiving the gift is allowed to own a firearm.

Can you conceal carry someone else's gun in PA? ›

An individual can conceal carry loaded firearms, regardless of the PA definition, which are registered under the NFA, such as short barreled rifles/shotguns and AOWs, so long as the individual has a valid License to Carry Firearms.

Is an AR 15 legal in Pennsylvania? ›

In 2017, Pennsylvania became the last state to legalize semi-automatic rifles – including AR-15s – for hunting.

Does the pain of death ever go away? ›

Grief doesn't magically end at a certain point after a loved one's death. Reminders often bring back the pain of loss. Here's help coping — and healing. When a loved one dies, you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later.

Why do friends disappear when you are grieving? ›

Grief tends to end friendships because of a lack of support when needed and expected and because many don't understand the depths of a suffering friend's despair. They lack the knowledge about how grief can affect a person and how you might reconnect with someone after a death.

How long after death does a person turn blue? ›

Livor mortis begins appearing as dull red patches after 20 to 30 minutes from the time of death. Over the next 2 to 4 hours, the patches come together to form larger areas of bluish-purple discoloration.

Can you go to heaven if you are cremated? ›

No matter what a person's preference is, from the Christian perspective, cremation does not prevent one from going to Heaven. So there's no need to worry, if God can create life from dust, surely he can restore life from ashes.

Can you touch human ashes? ›

Is it safe to touch cremated remains? A.) While it is safe, remains can get stuck to your skin quite easily. It's best to wear gloves or use a spoon to scoop out remains before scattering.

Is it painful when the soul leaves the body? ›

He said, “When the soul leaves the body, it can take a long time or it can happen very quickly. No matter how, it is painful. It is painful for the one who is dying, and it is painful for those who are left behind. The separation of the soul from the body, that is the ending of life.

What is the last breath before death called? ›

Agonal breathing or agonal gasps are the last reflexes of the dying brain. They are generally viewed as a sign of death, and can happen after the heart has stopped beating.

How soon after death do you poop? ›

Your muscles loosen immediately after death, releasing any strain on your bowel and bladder. As a result, most people poop and pee at death.

What is the place called before you go to heaven? ›

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is a place where sins are punished and a soul is purified before it can go to Heaven. This is called Purgatory .

Does a gun have to be registered in your name in Illinois? ›

Firearms registration: Illinois has no provision for registration of firearms; however some communities have their own laws. Check with your town's municipal codes. Firearms Training: Training is not required by the state to purchase a firearm. GAT GUNS offers training for new gun buyers.

What is a ATF Form 5? ›

This form is used to apply the tax-exempt transfer of an unserviceable (welded) firearm to anyone other than a federal firearms licensee who has paid the required special (occupational) tax to deal in National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms and to or from government agencies.

What are NFA firearms? ›

NFA firearms include machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, heavy weapons, explosive ordnance, silencers and "any other weapon" (AOW), such as disguised or improvised firearms. Title I weapons, or GCA firearms, are standard rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

Can you carry a loaded gun in your car in Kentucky? ›

Can You Have a Loaded Gun in Your Car in Kentucky? Yes, without a permit. Any person at least 21 years and otherwise able to lawfully possess a firearm, may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as persons with valid licenses.

Can you open carry in Walmart in Kentucky? ›

Walmart announced last week that they no longer welcome customers who engage in “open carry” — carrying a gun, in public, for everyone to see.

What disqualifies you from owning a gun in Kentucky? ›

People convicted of violent misdemeanors; People subject to mental health-related court orders; Persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders; or. People with substance use disorders.

Do you need to register an inherited handgun in PA? ›

Registered. In PA "firearms" that you receive via a bequest(a will) or intestate succession(family inheritance) do not require a proper transfer.

Is AK 47 legal in Maryland? ›

Maryland's ban outlaws “assault long guns,” mostly semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47, as well as large-capacity magazines, which prevent the need for frequent reloading.

How many rounds can you carry in MD? ›

No more than 10 rounds. A person may not manufacture, sell, offer for sale, purchase, receive or transfer a detachable magazine that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition for a firearm. Possession is not addressed in the statute. There is an exemption for .

What happens to a deceased person's belongings? ›

The executor will handle the payment of any expenses related to your estate until it is liquidated. He or she will also oversee the distribution of assets, including the sale of property and the payment of outstanding debts. The executor is usually a family member or other trusted party.

Are personal belongings part of an estate? ›

This includes their bank accounts, properties owned in their sole name, life insurance policies, pension schemes, stocks and shares, vehicles and all of their personal possessions. Valuing an Estate for Probate can be a complicated task, particularly when it comes to calculating the value of household items.

Does the oldest child inherit everything? ›

No state has laws that grant favor to a first-born child in an inheritance situation. Although this tradition may have been the way of things in historic times, modern laws usually treat all heirs equally, regardless of their birth order.

What do you do with a dead person's belongings? ›

One of the most overwhelming tasks would be sorting through belongings after death.
Instead of getting a storage unit, consider donating to any of the following:
  1. Local homeless shelters.
  2. Goodwill.
  3. Veterans' homes.
  4. Women's shelters.
  5. Salvation Army.
  6. A charity or non-profit.
1 Jun 2021

Is the eldest child next of kin? ›

If the deceased person's spouse or civil partner passed away before them, their next of kin would be their children, if they had any. If the children are younger than 18, they cannot be named as next of kin - in this case, their parents would be given the responsibility.

Can you remove items from a house before probate? ›

If the deceased person's estate is under this value, it is typically okay to commence house clearance before probate. Even so, it is recommended that you keep records of anything that is sold. This will cover you in case there are any questions later in the process from HMRC.

What happens if you don't file taxes for a deceased person? ›

If you don't file taxes for a deceased person, the IRS can take legal action by placing a federal lien against the Estate. This essentially means you must pay the federal taxes before closing any other debts or accounts. If not, the IRS can demand the taxes be paid by the legal representative of the deceased.

How do you avoid probate? ›

A trust might further, be used to avoid probate, simply by providing a destination for lifetime gifts (which may so be removed from the estate). It's worth reflecting on whether such gifts, might, more usefully, be made to the intended beneficiary, in life.

What we leave behind after death? ›

When a person dies, they leave behind a space. This space is by no means empty, but rather it is a space that consists of a rich bed of unique memories that represent what this person was about, what they offered to this world, and how they touched and shaped our lives, be it in helpful or unhelpful ways.

Who is your closest blood relative? ›

List of who your nearest relative is
  • Husband, wife or civil partner (including cohabitee for more than 6 months).
  • Son or daughter.
  • Father or mother (an unmarried father must have parental responsibility in order to be nearest relative)
  • Brother or sister.
  • Grandparent.
  • Grandchild.
  • Uncle or aunt.
  • Nephew or niece.

What is the order of beneficiary? ›

It is only necessary to designate a beneficiary if you want payment to be made in a way other than the following order of precedence: To your widow or widower. If none, to your child or children equally, and descendants of deceased children by representation. If none, to your parents equally or to the surviving parent.

Which sibling is next of kin? ›

Next of Kin Defined

Your next of kin relatives are your children, parents, and siblings, or other blood relations. Since next of kin describes a blood relative, a spouse doesn't fall into that definition.


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