Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot — Transferring of Firearm is Complicated, Prepare Your Estate Plan the Right Way

Absolute Trust Talk, a monthly podcast released by Absolute Trust Counsel, recently sat down with gun law expert Joseph Fenton, associate attorney of Campbell Green LLP, to discuss the smooth and legal transfer of firearms.

Fenton reports that unlike other assets listed in your estate plan, you may not be able to simply pass down a firearm to an inheritor, even if it has been legally documented.

“Guns are unique assets, and they have both federal and state laws that need to be followed. In California, you are required to register the transfer of ownership, or you may have to dispose of it.”

So, what exactly are the steps that should be followed if a firearm is known or believed to be part of an estate? You should:

  1. Locate the firearm.
  2. Secure and clear the firearm – if you don’t know how to do this find someone who does, Fenton urges. It is not something that can be learned on YouTube.
  3. Catalog all firearms involved.
  4. And then distribute them or get rid of them.

“As an overview, this sounds simple, but when you get to the distribution part, there is a process that needs to be followed and forms that need to be filed depending on your relationship to the testator,” Fenton adds. “And that’s something we really dive into on the show.”

“It was an honor to have Joseph’s expertise for this episode,” says Kirsten Howe, Absolute Trust Talk host and founder of Absolute Trust Counsel. “Guns and firearms are a hot topic right now, and people don’t understand that you can’t just pass them off to the next generation or another person. As Joseph points out, just because you want your grandson Billy or your best friend Bob to have your firearm, doesn’t mean that they are the right person, or will be cleared for inheriting the weapon when the time comes.”

In Absolute Trust Talk’s Episode #031 – “Do You Have a Firearm in Your Estate Plan?” – Howe and Fenton discuss:

  • What rules need to be followed for transferring a firearm in California
  • Where firearms fall within an estate plan
  • What language should be used in your estate if a firearm can’t be transferred as planned
  • The specific details of how to properly transfer a firearm to another person – family member or not

The podcast can be downloaded on the Absolute Trust Talk podcast page,, along with a free downloadable resource and exclusive tool: “Stick to Your Guns: How to Handle Firearms in an Estate.”

It can also be downloaded on iTunes: