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How To Transfer Firearms From A Deceased Person (3 Steps)

By Larry Li

October 3, 2022


If you recently experienced the death of a close family member or friend, you may be wondering what to do with their guns. Keeping the firearms stored in your home can be anxiety-inducing, so knowing how to transfer ownership from a deceased person is important. 

But how can you transfer firearms from a deceased person?

Several factors play a role in what to do with the guns of a deceased person. It depends on what state you reside in, the types of guns, and if you’re named as a beneficiary of the deceased person’s will. However, the best way to transfer firearms from a deceased person is to work with a licensed gun dealer. 

Firearms inheritance is complicated, even if you’re named as the beneficiary in the deceased person’s will. Therefore, you must properly understand how to transfer firearms from a deceased person.

Today’s in-depth guide covers:

  • What to do if your deceased loved one had a gun

  • How to transfer a firearm registration

  • Planning ahead with Trustworthy

What to Do if Your Deceased Loved One Had a Gun

You have a few options on what you can do with the firearm. Although you can transfer gun ownership from the deceased person to yourself, you can also surrender firearms to the local police or sell them. 

However, it’s important to remember that even if you are nominated in your loved one’s estate planned documents to handle their final affairs, it might still be illegal for you to take possession of the guns or transfer them to someone else.

For example, you can’t take ownership of the guns if any court has convicted you of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. You also can’t take possession of firearms if you’re an unlawful user or addicted to any controlled substance.

How to Transfer a Firearm Registration

Now, let’s dive into how to transfer a firearm registration of a deceased loved one. I’ve broken it down into three quick and easy steps. 

Step #1. Determine Who Has Legal Authority Over the Firearms

After a gun owner passes away, the estate executor is tasked with legally transferring the gun to the deceased person’s beneficiaries. 

However, if your deceased loved one didn’t have an estate plan, the surviving heirs at law are chosen by the Probate Court.

Therefore, if you are the estate executor, you typically have the authority to take possession of the guns for safekeeping and future transfers.

Step #2. Secure the Firearms

The next step is to make sure the firearms are stored in a secure gun safe that cannot be taken away in a burglary attempt. 

So, make arrangements to secure the firearms as soon as possible. If the guns are stolen and used in a violent crime, the victims can sue you for civil damages or criminal liability since you didn't properly secure the firearms. 

However, suppose you don’t know where to keep the firearms. In that case, you can place them in the custody of someone with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) until you can determine how to transfer ownership to heirs or beneficiaries. 

Somebody with an FFL can take legal possession of a wide range of firearms, including machine guns, short barrel rifles, shotguns, and guns with silencers. 

Step #3. Transfer Firearms to Beneficiary

If you’re definitive on your decision to transfer ownership of the firearms rather than selling them, the third step is to finally transfer ownership of the firearms.

The best way to transfer firearms from a deceased person is to work with a business or individual who owns an FFL license. Depending on what state the guns are located in, the FFL licensee is qualified to perform required background checks and registration requirements.

When the transfer of gun ownership is handled by an FFL dealer, the dealer holds the gun during a mandatory 10-day waiting period. During this time, the parties are required to complete a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS). This initiates a background check with the state Department of Justice. 

Furthermore, the beneficiary must secure a Firearm Safety Certification before taking possession of the firearm. The beneficiary also needs to have a FOID card in the state where they reside. If the beneficiary doesn’t have a FOID card, the law offers a sixty-day grace period. 

You can use GunBroker to find an FFL dealer near you who can help transfer firearms.

If you don’t want to use an intermediate with an FFL license, we recommend getting a signed, notarized statement from the individual to whom you are transferring the firearm. The statement should explain how the recipient is not a prohibited person under either state or federal law and can legally possess a firearm. 

However, there may be additional requirements in your specific state. Some states have stricter legal requirements for ownership, so it’s best to speak with an FFL license holder in your state. 

There are even stricter requirements if you want to transfer firearms over state lines since state firearms laws vary widely. Therefore, we recommend obtaining legal counsel before moving guns to a beneficiary who lives in a different state. 

Planning Ahead With Trustworthy

Coping with the loss of a loved one is one of the most challenging moments we face in life. However, it can be even more difficult if your loved one didn’t create a will or any other estate planning documents.

To prevent uncertain post-death estate management in the future, you can use Trustworthy.

Trustworthy is a digital storage platform dedicated to storing sensitive documents like wills, living trusts, bank account information, and passwords. You can think of Trustworthy as an all-inclusive family planning platform where you can store all of your confidential information. 

Trustworthy’s bank-level security and encryption protocols keep your files safe and secure. Furthermore, once you upload a document to Trustworthy, you can use Trustworthy’s secure collaboration tools to share access with specific individuals.

This way, your loved ones can always access important documents if necessary. See if Trustworthy is a good fit for your family with a 2-week free trial.

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