When you are completing your estate plans, there are certain assets that will need special consideration. Some assets that require special consideration, like a primary residence, are covered in most estate plans. Careful consideration of how to treat the home may promote future eligibility for Medi-Cal or VA Aid & Attendance Non Service Connected Disability benefits. How you structure your IRA beneficiary listings impacts your heirs’ ability to take advantage of ongoing tax-free growth. Designating your life insurance owners and beneficiaries will determine whether it may be used to pay estate taxes or creditors. Considering these types of assets and how they should be treated is among the top priorities in most estate planning attorneys’ minds. However, there are other assets that your attorney may not specifically ask you about, or that you may neglect to mention. If you will leave firearms behind, it is important to ensure that you are appropriately accommodating them in your estate plan.
Especially these days, gun control is near the top of the Congressional priority list and remains heavily covered in the media. Because the law is in a state of flux, it is important to consider whether you have properly planned for the passage of your firearms to your heirs. This is particularly true because there are some changes to the law coming up next year. Ensuring that you have left proper instructions can ensure that your firearms are handled appropriately without going astray of the law.
It is important to ensure that the formalities required for the gun transfer are followed. At present, there is a distinction made between the requirements for handguns and other firearms. However, beginning January 1, 2014, the only distinction that will remain is the requirement that handgun beneficiaries obtain a handgun safety certificate. The transaction ordinarily must go through a dealer who will help complete the transaction. However, certain exceptions to the requirement of using a dealer exist. Notably in the context of estate planning, firearms acquired by gift, bequest, or other means may be excluded from the dealer requirement when the parties are over the age of 18 and in the same “immediate family” and the transfer is “infrequent.” The quoted words have specific definitions in the law. Upon taking possession of the firearm, the transferee must notify the Department of Justice within 30 days.
In cases where you are attempting to transfer a gun across state lines, verifying that both state and federal laws are adhered to is vital to the transfer. Currently, federal law allows individuals who are not licensed as importers, manufacturers, or dealers to send guns across state lines in order to carry out a bequest as long as the heir may receive the firearm. However, each state has its own laws regarding what firearms are allowable. For example, certain types of firearms are classified as “assault weapons” in California and are not allowed in the state under most circumstances. Additionally, certain ammunition feeding devices are not allowed in California. In the current political climate, the federal government may make transporting firearms across state lines more difficult.
If you own firearms that you wish to transfer to your heirs, properly planning for the transfer and advising the heirs of their responsibilities with respect to reporting requirements or other formalities can prevent your family from unwittingly committing a crime. Additionally, reviewing the state of the law every few years as you review your estate plan will ensure that the transfer you have arranged is lawful!
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