June is full of events that signify the change of life. One of those events is high school graduation. It is a milestone for high school seniors as they transition from following their parents’ rules to illusion of freedom that accompanies entering adulthood. They are celebrating this milestone with graduation parties. They look forward to cards full of money and gifts to adorn their college dorm rooms or first apartments. But have you thought of giving the gift of lifelong peace? 

Instead of giving cash or much needed dorm supplies, consider purchasing a gift certificate for a basic estate plan. Every college student or young adult should have these three basic estate planning documents: a durable power of attorney for finances, a patient advocate designation with HIPAA waiver, and a last will and testament.  

A durable power of attorney for finances will allow the young adult to designate a financially responsible adult to act on their behalf when they are unable to do so. This power designation will allow the agent to access bank accounts; deal with creditors; pay rent, utilities and credit cards; and manage loans, including student loans. The young adult will have a say before the need arises to appoint who they trust to manage their financial affairs when they cannot. 

A patient advocate designation with HIPAA waiver allows the young adult to designate a person to advocate on their behalf regarding healthcare decisions. This is a role parents fulfilled throughout childhood but no longer can legally do so once the age of eighteen is attained. With a properly prepared patient advocate designation, the young person can name a person or persons that they trust to fulfill this role when they are incapable of speaking on their behalf. The young person can provide directions on what actions to take if an injury or illness will likely result in death. The designated person will also be granted access to medical records, so informed decision regarding healthcare can be made on behalf of the young adult. 

A last will and testament will allow the young adult to direct the distribution of their estate upon their death. Many young adults do not think of what will happen when they pass away. Death is not within their immediate goals. But a last will and testament give the young adult a voice in what will happen to his personal belongings upon death.  

If you have a young adult preparing to head off to college or move into their first apartment on their own, give them the gift of peace. Purchase a gift certificate for an estate plan with an attorney who understands what a young person needs at the beginning of their life adventures. 

After the enactment of Rule 41F, which became effective July 13, 2016, the common question we hear is, “What is the benefit of a gun trust now that it is no longer needed to avoid the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) approval for the possession or use of a weapon regulated under the National Firearm Act (NFA)?” Using a trust to get around the CLEO approval for an NFA firearm was just one reason for creating a gun trust. The other benefits for creating and having a gun trust still exist.

One benefit to create a gun trust is to preserve a firearm legacy for future generations. Our founding fathers passed down an ethic and respect for firearms. By the War of 1812, this had been diluted. A gun trust is way for each of us to provide our families written instructions on the importance of the Second Amendment, proper respect for firearms, mandate regular training both on and off the range for handling firearms and shooting, and create an incentive for the need to go beyond basic training.

A second benefit to create a gun trust is for estate planning purposes. With NFA firearms, when a person passes away, the firearm must be transferred to another person that can lawfully own, possess, and use the NFA firearm. The federal regulations provide a tax-free mechanism for this transfer, which must happen. However, the transfer is not necessary when the trust is the registered owner of the NFA firearm. The NFA firearm remains in the trust and the members of the trust can still have access to that firearm.

A third benefit to create a gun trust was to avoid the federal transfer requirements. When a person purchases an NFA firearm in his or her name alone under the federal requirements and tax stamp, no one else can possess or use the firearm without violating the federal transfer requirements. This is true if the use or possession is temporary and for a few minutes. A transfer of an NFA firearm requires the completion of paperwork and transfer of the tax stamp. A gun trust avoids this process for those individuals named as either grantors or trustees of the gun trust. Each named trustee can possess and use the NFA firearms under the trust’s registration of the firearm.

A fourth benefit for the language of the trust can train successor trustees. Transferring firearms to or allowing possession of firearms by prohibited persons can create legal issues for successor trustees. Our gun trusts provide successor trustees with the information to prevent these types of transfers from occurring. The trusts also give successor trustees the discretion of delaying transfers or use of firearms to adult novice firearms user or minor beneficiaries.

While a search of the internet can result in other benefits of creating and having a gun trust for the ownership, preservation and post-death transfer of all firearms, these are the top four benefits that I have identified in my practice as key in decision making for my clients. A gun trust is not about circumventing legal requirements to own restricted firearms, but to begin the creation of family firearm legacy that carries on for generations.

If you are interested in creating or continuing your family’s firearm legacy, contact our intake team today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting and learn more on how a gun trust can complete your estate plan.

One of the many questions that I am asked by clients and other attorneys is “Why is a gun trust necessary?” or “Why do I need a gun trust?” The exact reason why an individual needs a gun trust is unique to everyone. However, the simple answer is to protect your successor trustee from inadvertently breaking the law after your death or disability when transferring a firearm. There are other reasons why a gun trust is necessary, and here I will expand the top three reasons I have encountered in my practice that apply to most of the clients that I have worked with.

The top reason a gun trust is an essential part of an individual’s estate plan is because the individual is looking to a buy a Title II (Class 3 or NFA) firearm. These are highly regulated and only the person the tax stamp is issued to may possess the firearm. Therefore, whenever the individual leaves the firearm at home, which is shared with other people, a transfer in possession is occurring. This transfer is typically referred to a constructive possession, and the transfer is unauthorized. An unauthorized transfer of a Title II firearm is a felony under federal law. Constructive possession is when the firearm is safely stored in a gun safe that the remaining members of the house does not have the key or code to access, but the safe is not impenetrable, and your family members or household members could theoretically break into the safe and take actual possession of the firearm. A gun trust that names the individuals that live in the home would prevent this from becoming something to worry about. 

Reason number two that a gun trust is essential is because a designated beneficiary is a prohibited person under 18 USC 922(g) and there is a desire to leave them a portion of the trust. The named prohibited person can be transferred a firearm by a successor trustee that does not know the federal or state laws concerning firearms. A gun trust can provide for the transfer of firearms to those legally able to own the firearms, and the prohibited person can be provided for within the revocable trust.

The third reason to create a gun trust is to educate successor trustee about the laws surrounding the transfer and ownership of firearm laws. While state laws may provide how to transfer firearms upon the death of an individual, those laws do not cover what a successor trustee needs to know about federal laws, transferring across state lines, what is illegal in other states, or how to transfer a Title II firearm. A gun trust provides the successor trustee with a base line of knowledge before a transfer can be made. In addition, contact information for the attorney that drafted the gun trust is available to the successor trustee to reach out with additional questions.

There are many other reasons why a gun trust is essential. I have found that outside of these top three reasons that the other reasons are unique to person ask for the gun trust. I have heard reasons that include creating a legacy of firearms, families members currently live where certain firearms to be transferred are considered illegal, I am the only firearm enthusiast and I do not want the firearms turned into the police, I want to create a legacy of firearms that I have collected, or my children are still members and they are my only beneficiaries.

You may be identifying with some of these reasons as you are reading this. If you own firearms, you need an estate plan to ensure that your loved ones know what to do with your firearms. If you need more information about gun trusts or how to create one, call (248) 230-2545 today to schedule a Pre-engagement Meeting with our team.

Estate planning for firearm owners is not the same as an estate plan for a young married couple with small children. While the firearm owner may be the young married couple with small children, the estate plan for firearms needs to discuss when, to whom, and how to properly transfer both Title I firearms and Title II firearms. A revocable trust will effectively manage the typical trust assets such as bank accounts, funds from life insurance policies, a house, and distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries, a separate trust designed specifically for the transfer of firearms needs to be a part of the complete estate plan.

A revocable trust designed for the ownership and transfer of firearms is known as either an NFA Firearms Trust or a Gun Trust. While some law firms use these names interchangeably, here at Michigan Gun Law, they are two separate trusts. An NFA Firearms Trust or National Firearms Trust is a revocable living trust designed for the sole purpose of owning and transferring Title II ,also known as Class 3, firearms.  A gun trust is revocable living trust designed for the ownership and transfer of both Title I and Title II firearms.

Title II firearms are those in which the federal government has enacted laws to restrict ownership. Title II firearms include short-barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns, destructive devices, and silencers, also known as suppressors. All of these firearms require a tax stamp to own and register the firearm to a specific individual. Title II firearms may not be loaned to another person or transferred without the involvement of paperwork and BATFE officials. State laws vary on which of these firearms are legal to own or possess within the state. Some states may allow the ownership and possession of these firearms but restrict the ability to transfer the firearm upon death.

The NFA Firearms Trust provides a means to preserve the firearm after the death of the individual creating the trust, because the trust owns the firearms and has the tax stamp, not the individual. In addition, the trust provides specific instructions to successor trustees on how to transfer the firearms, where to find the relevant laws, to whom the firearms may be transferred, and the requirements under federal law to own or possess a firearm. All this information is important to a successor trustee that may not be as knowledgeable as the firearms owner who created the trust.

Another benefit of an NFA Firearms Trust is that firearms owner can omit a family member that is not qualified under federal law to own a firearm as a beneficiary under this trust, while still providing for the family member in the separate revocable living trust. This eliminates the hard choice of leaving a loved out of the estate plan because of choices that resulted in “prohibited person” status under federal law with firearms.

18 U.S.C. 922(g) defines who is a prohibited person. Some of those people include anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year, someone who was dishonorably discharged from military service, someone who was adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, a person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, an illegal alien, or a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. There are other categories of individuals who are prohibited to own firearms under federal law. A thorough review of 18 U.S.C. 922(g) should be done before any individual is named or added to an NFA Firearms Trust. 

Here, at Michigan Gun Law, we vet your chosen successor trustees and beneficiaries before we draft the trust to ensure that no prohibited person is named within the trust documents. In addition, we educate the firearm owner on what steps to take when they learn that a loved one has become a prohibited person.

If you are interested creating an NFA Firearms Trust or a gun trust, call Michigan Gun Law where our attorneys have the experience and in-depth knowledge in this area to craft a gun trust that meet your needs. Contact us today at (248) 230-2545 to schedule your pre-engagement meeting.

By: Danyelle Griffith – Client Coordinator

Estate planning is not something that most young people think about. As a young person, I can attest that a good portion of us think about the immediate future and not what could happen weeks, months or even years from now. Since we are young, we do not think about dying; however, it can happen! The aftermath of not planning can have your family in a whirlwind of paperwork and court visits trying to settle your affairs.

That is one of the reasons that I felt I needed an estate plan for myself. My situation is unique and not like most people my age. As a young, soon-to-be divorced mother of three young girls, their safety and future are always on my mind. I am constantly wondering if I am going to be raising them right, will they turn out to be good people? And it does not end there. Shortly before my twins were born this past April, I started to wonder what would happen if I wasn’t here for them? What happens to my bills? What happens to my girls?

The Griffith Twins

Without divulging too much information, my situation at that time was not the best. I had been separated from my soon-to-be ex-husband – who was not in a good position to take care of our children if something happened to me – for about seven months. I had no plan for myself or my kids if something were to go wrong when I was giving birth, which there is typically a higher risk with twin pregnancies. Fortunately, I work for a law firm that handles estate plans regularly. My co-workers were willing to have that conversation with me that opened my eyes to the options that were available to me. I could set up a plan for my kids and myself if something unexpected were to happen. I needed to set up an estate plan, for my own peace of mind.

The plan I had set up for me was basic. It laid out who was to take care of my children if I passed, who would get what in the event of my passing, who would make decisions for me if I was unconscious, and what my final wishes were. This is not something most twenty-four-year-olds think about. In fact, a lot of young people like myself have nothing set up for themselves. If something were to happen to them, their family may run into trouble as it comes to their final wishes and expenses, or if they are just simply unconscious, their family may not be able to get the information that is needed from the medical field to make an informed decision for them because they do not have the authority. When everything is planned out, there is no question for anyone involved.

After I set my plan up, a huge sense of relief rushed over me. I knew my girls would be taken care of in a way that they would be safe and provided for. I knew that everyone knew exactly what their role to play would be in the worst-case scenario. Planning, in my eyes, was the best decision I could have made. Even though I simply had a basic plan, or a Will and Powers of Attorney drafted, I knew that even if the courts had to become involved that I had made the process that much easier for my family.

As my situation changes, I will be going back and changing my estate plan, just as I think everyone should. It is the responsible thing to do. Planning for your future according to your situation now is how we best prepare for our future. You never know what is going to happen. Being prepared, as a parent, is sometimes hard to do, but for me, an estate plan was an easy place to start.

If you are a young parent, or just simply a young adult, please call Michigan Gun Law today at (248) 676-8978 to start drafting your estate plan. Today is guaranteed, tomorrow is not. Do not leave your families in shambles if something should happen to you.

By: Linda Robbins – Administrative Assistant

The stressful year of having a child in their senior year of high school can really tax parents. Applying for college, getting accepted to college, getting their senior pictures, finding that perfect prom dress, the senior graduation party, and then finally commencement. Then you start shopping for all the stuff they will need for their college dorm room. There is so much to do, it is no wonder that parents are tired, but the day has arrived, and you are leaving your child behind in an unfamiliar place called a dorm room.

The next thing you know is you are getting a phone call from your child’s dorm mate saying that they took your child to the emergency room. You live 4 hours away. You try to call the hospital to find out about your child, but they refuse to talk to you because your child is over the age of 18. Your child is an ADULT and they can only speak to them.

Therefore, parents really should think about having a simple estate plan for their child that includes the will and powers of attorney. The powers of attorney gives the doctors permission to speak to the parents and the parents the rights to make sure that their child’s wishes are taken care of if something should happen to them.

I know from experience as my youngest daughter went off to college and ended up in the emergency room with mononucleosis. The hospital would not talk to us even though we had to pay the bill. I also had very dear friends whose daughter went away to college that was 4 hours away from where the parents lived. They received a phone call one night from a state trooper that their daughter had been in a very serious car accident and was no longer living. Now what do they do? They had no idea if their daughter wanted to be cremated or buried.

These are some of the reasons why parents really should think about getting a simple estate plan for their child as a graduation gift. So, if you are a parent getting ready to send your child off to college, paying for an estate plan should not be a cost you cut. Call Michigan Gun Law at (248) 676-8978 to schedule your appointment today!