Guns, Estate Planning, and Probate - Keston Law - Wilmington, NC
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Guns, Estate Planning, and Probate

Posted Sep 4, 2018 by Joan Keston

Guns are important possessions to address when dealing with estate planning and the probate process. As an Executor of someone’s will you need to understand and follow correct procedures when dealing with guns. There are federal laws as well as state laws that must be considered. The state law considered specifically below is North Carolina state law.

There are 3 basic categories of guns:

  • Handguns
  • Long guns, i.e. shoulder fired weapons
  • National Firearms Act weapons: automatic weapons, short barrel rifle (<16”), short barrel shot gun (<18”), silencers/suppressors

Transferring a handgun to anyone is a misdemeanor unless the transferee has a pistol permit or unexpired concealed carry permit. In order to get a permit, a person must be 21 years of age or older. The duty is on the transferor to verify that these requirements are met. If you are the Executor of someone’s will then you would be considered the transferor, i.e. you are the one transferring the gun to someone else. Thus you are responsible for any illegal transfers. The person receiving the gun according to the decedent’s will would be the transferee.

No permit is necessary for a long gun. But the transferee must be 18 years of age or older. Again the duty here falls on the Executor of the decedent’s will to verify that proper procedures are followed.

Any weapon subject to the National Firearms Act must be registered and failure to register is a felony. The following persons are prohibited from having these weapons: person with a dishonorable discharge, felon, addict, person subject to a domestic violence order, etc. Again the duty here falls on the Executor of the decedent’s will and, in addition, if the Executor happens to be one of the prohibited persons listed, then a felony has been committed.

In addition, if the Executor is transferring guns across state lines because the person receiving the guns according to the decedent’s will lives in another state, then you as Executor must verify federal and all involved state laws before crossing state lines.

In many situations, it is recommended that the owner of guns create a gun trust when doing their estate planning. These are specific trusts for guns, and are especially useful for weapons subject to the National Firearms Act or for underage issues.

If you have questions about elder law, asset protection or retirement planning, consider Keston Law—we are an experienced law office who offer a unique blend of Asset Protection, Elder Law and Estate Planning. You can also attend our free seminars. Learn more through our website at, or call us at (910) 509-7121.