By Greg Herman-Giddens

Back in January, TTAG posted a piece by FirearmConcierge on gun trusts. The author works as a gun dealer and has published several posts about firearms retail, pricing, and the business side of guns. The post we respond to today is “The Truth About Gun Trusts – and How Attorneys Lie to Get Your Money.”  Although the author makes several accurate points—some about misleading advertising and another about the poor quality of trusts from gun dealers—the piece is primarily saturated with false statements . . .

To clear up a few points:

Boilerplate gun trusts
The author makes broad claims that all gun trust attorneys use boilerplate language. Truth: Some attorneys use customized legal documents specifically crafted for each grantor and with detailed instructions for the trustees and beneficiaries named in the trust. (Our lawyers at Southern Gun Law Group are part of a national network—GunDocx™ Lawyers—who use trust documents that address the trust creator’s specific goals.)

Perhaps the author experienced poor service by an inexperienced or careless attorney. However, a growing number of lawyers are available who are knowledgeable about both trusts and gun laws, and create custom gun trusts that address specific legal issues associated with NFA (and non-NFA) items to be owned by the trust. What about protean state and federal laws affecting gun ownership? Gun trust attorneys ensure trusts address these issues.

Gun trusts offer no power
The author acknowledges one gun trust benefit, the ability to bypass a Chief Law Enforcement Officer’s signature, Yet the author makes another unsupported claim that gun trusts provide no power to owners. Truth: Gun trusts afford several powers to owners which, beside the power to amend and revoke the trust, include avoiding probate at death, designating specific guns to specific individuals, enjoying confidential transfers, and appointing authorized users to freely and legally use noted firearms.

Estate planning and gun law are not related
The author states, “wills, trusts and estate law and gun law could not be farther apart in the legal field.” Truth: Gun trusts provide clear instructions for the legal management or disposition of firearms upon the death or incapacity of the trust creator. Without the structure of a proper gun trust, individuals who transfer or “inherit” may very well find themselves on the wrong end of the law.

One notable accuracy in FirearmsConcierge’s piece is the advice to research before deciding on what gun trust is right for you. With a gun trust, as with many things, you normally “get what you pay for.” As a responsible gun owner, make sure to do your due diligence and chose an experienced attorney who will not only draft a custom trust, but provide detailed instructions and assistance. The truth about gun trust attorneys is that we’re out there and we help firearms owners every day.

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25 Responses to The Truth About Gun Trusts: An Attorney’s Perspective

  1. I think most of us have come to understand that FirearmConcierge’s posts are simply bitter outbursts from someone who seems to carry a lot of anger.

    • thats kinda the feeling i get from his (her?) articles, too. real calloused and a-hole-ish. but maybe thats just the authors sense of humor or writing style?

      • I see it as the equivalent of taking advice about French cuisine from the clerk at the grocery store. Gun dealers are order takers. They MAY know what they are talking about, but it’s not because they filled out some paperwork for the gov.

  2. “The author makes broad claims that all gun trust attorneys use boilerplate language.”

    I don’t see anywhere in the post where it is says this, there is a statement of the nature of the boilerplate-ness of the language, but lacks the qualifier that all attorneys do this, what it actually states is that “The economics of the gun business have led attorneys to love to sell gun trusts.”

    The differentiation of “boilerplate” and “customized legal documents” seems more to the opinion one person to the next. I hardly think that any lawyer is starting from 0 every time they draft a commonly sold item like an NFA trust. At what specific point does it go from “boilerplate language” to ” Some attorneys use customized legal documents specifically crafted for each grantor and with detailed instructions for the trustees and beneficiaries named in the trust.” if you are are changing names and instructions from a template are you not just changing words?

  3. I want to make a trust in the future. Probably after I am done moving. Maybe if I save up money for the AK-74SU “Suchka” of my dreams. It’s only 20k…

    • I set up a goal in Mint (the budgeting tool) to save $20k for the a little while in a special account, so I can buy an MP5 ($18k-$20k).

      It’s definitely a lot of money, but start slow and you’ll have it in no time!

  4. Just like everything else, there’s good ones and there’s bad ones in every area.. trick is finding the good ones. I need a good one in Virginia, anyone have any suggestions? (can e me privately at robert5721@mac.com)

  5. Hopefully FirearmConcierge has moved on to grouse at some other site. To me, he seems like that store I avoid because the owner is a douche and there’s many other stores I can choose from where the owner isn’t a douche.

  6. I’m old, sick, and on some groovy painkillers. After reading the article 3 times, I’m more confused than ever. That alone is quite a feat. So, do I trust firearmconcierge or not? I’ve seen NFA trusts advertised for $135 (do it myself. Yeah, right) to $600, most of a months disability income. I’ll find the money, but can only do this once.

    • You only have to do it once. The trust exists until it is dissolved, and can be amended from time to time as necessary.

  7. I personally have enjoyed the posts from FirearmConcierge and regret that he hasn’t posted anything recently. He has given us private, back room info that you wouldn’t normally have access too. I have owned a retail store and know about the frustrations of dealing with John Q. Public. FC isn’t angry; he is normal! While your customer is always right, not everyone is your customer–especially those who believe that “if it’s not on sale, then it’s not the will of God” to buy your product. At the same time, they’ll take your knowledge for free and give it to an online retailer just to cheat their state out of the sales tax.
    Here is an example I had. I had one customer who routinely violated our return policy. We made exception after exception. It sucked our time away from our good customers, cost us a ton in non-recoverable credit card fees, and resulted in merchandise that was unsaleable. I finally refused to make any more exceptions and was told “If you don’t return this, I’ll never shop here again!” I said “Thank You!”
    Quit hating on FC if you haven’t walked in his shoes–you’re missing out on a free education of how to behave as a customer.

    • This.
      What I take from most of FC’s posts is that he’s running a for profit business and there are a lot of people and entities that prioritize their interests over his. I worked telephone contact areas for a major bank for over a decade and his pieces have the tone of a veteran telling it how it is. Most people are decent. There is an annoying and vocal minority however, who act like entitled jerks with no consideration for your business, common courtesy, or basic economics. His pieces are thought provoking and provide a different perspective. Until I have the chance to do business with him face-to-face, I’m not willing to judge his character. Especially since I can usually see where he’s coming from.

  8. No sane attorney is sitting down with a yellow pad and a pen to draft your gun trust. However, the way that many attorneys, and probably 99% of the gun shops, handle it is that they have a form or two that have floated across the transom, and through the magic of Find & Replace, you have your document.

    If you’re lucky, they found every instance of the last guy’s name, and they spelled yours right. If you’re not lucky, the last guy’s brother-in-law is your successor trustee.

    Technology has made it possible for attorneys who want to invest a bit of time and money in education and software to be able to assemble your document from a library of provisions. You’d get what you need, based on your circumstances and desires.

    Gun trusts have been turned into a commodity, where price rules. If you spend any time at all thinking about it, you’ll understand that the attorney who charged you $250 an hour for your divorce has spent almost zero time on your $200 gun trust.

    If the attorney is not asking you to come in to sit down and talk about your situation, that is a pretty good indicator that you’re getting a form. That doesn’t mean that the sky is definitely falling, but it does sort of indicate that not a lot of thought has gone into evaluating your situation.

    I’d also ask the attorney, “what’s in your trust?” but that’s a personal question that might not be polite in every part of the country. But if the attorney doesn’t get excited talking about guns, his/hers or yours, then personally, I’d look elsewhere.

  9. “GunDocx® is first and foremost a software system to create purpose-built, customized gun trusts with all the necessary documents to help gun owners to own, share, and pass on a valued gun collection just the way he or she wants.”

    Sooooo….it’s “Click on one from Column A, one from Column B, and any two from Column C” computer-generated boilerplate then? Isn’t that essentially what FirearmConcierge claimed? The interestingly, the author both disputes this claim, and provides evidence supporting it two sentences away.

    • Not that simple. Like anything, garbage in, garbage out. A good attorney knows the right questions to ask to get the particular provisions that serve your purpose. Yes, much of the language, on a paragraph to paragraph basis, is “boilerplate” in the same sense that an insurance policy is “boilerplate”–but this is really a good thing, because courts are more apt to interpret the same language the same way time and time again, thus lending predictability to any given situation. The English language is, as y’all know full well, ambiguous more often than not, and anything that reduces or eliminates ambiguities is a good thing. Still, each trust must be tailored to each client. I have seen enough instances where someone, to avoid paying a lawyer, did what you suggest–picked various paragraphs or provisions that he/she thought sounded good–and ended up with an unenforceable contract. Beware GIGO. It’s cheaper to pay a lawyer to do it right the first time than to pay a lawyer substantially more to untangle the lovely mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

  10. Just as I’m more likely to trust medical advice given to me by a doctor, I’m more likely to trust legal advice from a lawyer.

  11. I’m perfectly willing to try this experiment in the United States

    0) Have all lawyers publicly confess that they destroyed our country and its way of life
    1) Eliminate all the present lawyers in the U.S.
    2) Bulldoze all the existing law schools except one or two non-Ivy league schools
    3) Start graduating new lawyers with the understanding that we’re willing to do step #1 again if they destroy our country again

      • So the presence of lawyers is what keeps you from shooting your neighbor? Even though it is regressing every year, the Ameircan culture is about 600 years in front of Somalia. I think the risk is well worth the potential gain.

        Just think, every ridiculous, insane, non-sensical rule or law that we increasing get stymied by in this country was put in place and maintained by lawyers.

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