Welcome to CPA at Law, helping individuals and small businesses plan for the future and keep what they have.

This is the personal blog of Sterling Olander, Certified Public Accountant and Attorney at Law. For over five years, I have worked as a tax professional helping clients with tax mitigation strategies, tax controversies, business transactions, wealth preservation structures, tax-exempt organiations, and estate plans.

I write about any legal, tax, or technological information that I find interesting or useful in serving my clients. All ideas expressed herein are my own and don't constitute legal or tax advice.

Estate Planning with Gun Trusts

Gun trusts are in the news this week due to President Obama's executive actions addressing gun violence and new regulations published by the ATF. Despite the fact that purchasing a firearm through a gun trust will be more onerous under the new regulations, the gun trust will remain an important planning tool for persons that own certain firearms.

By way of background, the key federal laws regulating firearms are the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). Title II of the GCA incorporates provisions of the NFA and regulates certain "dangerous weapons," such as machine guns, that are often referred to as "Title II firearms" or "NFA firearms." NFA firearms are subject to strict registration, transfer, and tax requirements. See Lee-ford Tritt, Dispatches from the Trenches of America's Great Gun Trust Wars, 108 Nw. U. L. Rev. 743 (2014).

Prior to the new regulations, individual applicants could not legally acquire an NFA firearm without completing a transfer form, having it signed by the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of the locality where the applicant is located, and providing their photograph and fingerprints with the transfer form. An individual could avoid these requirements by acquiring the firearm through a gun trust (or other entity) as long as the trust had legal existence and the trustee signed the transfer form.

The new ATF regulations eliminate the requirement that the transfer forms be signed by a CLEO but requires all "responsible persons" with respect to a gun trust to submit photographs and fingerprints. In other words, it is now easier for an individual to acquire a NFA firearm but more onerous for a gun trust or other entity.

Nevertheless, a key advantage of titling NFA firearms in a gun trust remains, which is that "more than one person may legally possess" the gun. Otherwise, a household member of an individual NFA firearm owner who knows about the gun and has the ability to access it could be in constructive possession and thereby be committing a federal crime. The laws governing NFA firearms provide for severe criminal penalties that could arise unexpectedly; talk with an attorney familiar with gun laws and gun trusts whenever an NFA firearm is acquired.

50 States' Small Estate Affidavit Forms

All states have a simplified procedure of some kind for transferring the property of a decedent with few assets. For a great summary of these laws, see Joseph N. Blumberg's article, A Survey of Small Estate Procedures Across the Country.

The majority of states allow title to certain property to be transferred by sworn affidavit, without the need for any court intervention or supervision. My objective here is to provide a link to a small estate affidavit form from an authoritative source for each of these states. Where I wasn't able to locate such a form, I included a link to that state's statute or a helpful website. For states that require court intervention or supervision, I tried to do the same thing, but clearly many of these states don't have such a form, and in none of these states would any form be sufficient by itself.

For all states, I hoped at a minimum to include a link to some useful resource for transferring assets from small estates. This post will be updated as better sources become available; please comment below if you come across broken links or better forms or resources than what I currently have:

 Alabama  Illinois  Montana  Rhode Island*
 Alaska  Indiana^  Nebraska  South Carolina
 Arizona^  Iowa  Nevada  South Dakota
 Arkansas*  Kansas  New Hampshire*  Tennessee*^
 California  Kentucky*  New Jersey*  Texas*^
 Colorado  Louisiana#  New Mexico^  Utah
 Connecticut*  Maine  New York*  Vermont*
 Delaware  Maryland*  North Carolina^#  Virginia^
 District of Columbia*  Massachusetts#  North Dakota  Washington
 Florida*  Michigan  Ohio*  West Virginia*
 Georgia^#  Minnesota  Oklahoma^#  Wisconsin
 Hawaii  Mississippi  Oregon^#  Wyoming#
 Idaho^  Missouri*^  Pennsylvania#   

* Affidavit insufficient by itself; a court process of some kind is required.
^ A county-specific form is linked.
# Affidavit may be insufficient; see state statute. State is deemed an "Affidavit Anomaly" by Joseph N. Blumberg due to uniqueness.