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Old May 27th, 2008, 09:29 AM
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Default Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

Hi guys,

I'm writing to see if anyone can offer (accurate) advice on transferring firearms to a family member upon the death of the owner. The situation:

My girlfriend's grandfather has just passed away. He is a resident of Pennsylvania. He has a number (uninventoried) of firearms including rifles, pistols and shotguns. I do not know whether he has any registered NFA items. I am more familiar with the NFA requirements for transfer upon death; what I don't know is whether there are PA-specific issues. In particular I am interested in info on:

Legal status of all the firearms (my understanding is that they are now the legal property of his wife -- are there any exceptions?)

Are there any specific actions to be taken regarding transfer of any handguns to his wife? I think rifles/shotguns are pretty straightforward.

In addition, several of his children reside out of state. Does Federal law/regulations require transfers to take place through licensed dealers to any of his (otherwise legally unencumbered) children?

Lastly, he has a number of firearms located at a second home in another state. Are there any special requirements for transporting them back to PA? I can't imagine his wife driving to Maine and back across the MA, NY, etc. state lines with a car full of guns. Can another family member lawfully transport these firearms into PA?

Sorry for the rather broad question; while I've given lots of thought to NFA transfers, I'm not familiar enough with PA's laws regarding transfer between family members of "normal" firearms. The main reason I ask is that my girlfriend's mother is concerned because of a number of recent media stories in the Philadelphia area exhorting people who receive firearms from a deceased relative to "register" them properly (I know this is BS, but the media reports focus on the possibilty of subsequent theft, usage in a crime, and potential liability of the transferee down the road).

Also, one NFA question I'm not 100% sure on: If the deceased is survived by his wife, do any registered NFA firearms have to be transfered to her or does the registration to him stand for his wife? I know that transfers to other family members have to be registered but I'm not 100% sure on transfers to a spouse.

Thanks! any information will be greatly appreciated. I would be happy to compile any (verifiable) information into a general guide for death related family transfers to be posted on PAFOA.org.

Thanks again.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:28 AM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

She can get them no transfer necessary (if willed to her or by the executioner of the will) Someone will post the law. Other than grandparent/parent to child/grandchild or spouse you must transfer it via FFL.

As for transportation. Separate containers no ammo in a gun container and both in secured separate containers in the trunk, out of anyone's practical reach. Print the federal transportation law. Also those transporting cannot be barred from firearm possession. Not the transporter must have legal right in the state you're going to end up in. Check with Maine law if you could legally drop them off to her...

Last edited by whoshisface; May 27th, 2008 at 10:32 AM.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:37 AM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

Was there a will? Without a will, it doesn't mean everything goes straight to the wife.

====

However, assuming all doesn't go straight to the wife and people are named beneficiaries.

His direct descendants : kids, grandkids, and his wife

a. may take ownership of the said firearm(excluding NFA stuff) without any paperwork what-so-ever. Including those living in other states. ...so long as they aren't prohibited persons and the firearm is legal in the destination state. His kids/grandkids that live in another state can come here and pickup the said firearm and take it home. And from the way both PA and Fed law is written, they can have the firearm shipped via common carrier straight to their door without any FFL in the loop. ....BARRING ANY LAWS OF THE RECEIVING STATE.


----

Non-direct descendants : friends, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.
a1. residents: long guns can be just given to the receiving party.
a2. residents, bequest or not: handguns will require a lawful transfer at the Sheriff. Sheriff will act as "seller".

b1. non-resident bequeath: long guns, the receiving person can come get it and take it to home state or have it shipped to them directly if they were named in the will. Receiving party is responsible for any registration that his/her home state requires(if any). Firearm must be legal in receiving party's state.
b2. non-resident bequeath: handgun, the receiving person can come get it and take it to home state or have it shipped to them directly if they were named in the will. Receiving party is responsible for any registration that his/her home state requires(if any). Firearm must be legal in receiving party's state.
b3. non-resident not bequeathed: handguns will have to be shipped to a FFL in the receiving person's home state.
b4. non-resident not bequeathed: long guns can be transferred at a FFL in PA or shipped to a FFL in the receiving party's home state for transfer.

---

This below is assuming the wife receives everything.

The wife's direct descendants: kids and grandkids
a1. resident: no paperwork for long guns or handguns - she may hand them straight to receiving person.
a2. non-resident: handguns, will require a proper transfer thru a FFL in the receiving person's home state.
a3. non-resident: long guns, thru FFL in receiving person's home state or at FFL in PA.

Non-direct descendants: friends, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.
a1: resident: long guns, can be given straight to receiving person without paperwork
a2. resident: handguns, proper transfer thru a FFL or sheriff

b1: non-resident: long guns, thru FFL in receiving person's home state or at FFL in PA.
b2. non-resident: handguns, will require a proper transfer thru a FFL in the receiving person's home state.
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Last edited by knight0334; May 27th, 2008 at 12:14 PM. Reason: damn typos
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Old May 27th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

That is obviously a mix of federal and state law.


I personally would just transport them give them to her and forget about it.

Well, so long as she isn't banned from owning firearms in PA...
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Old May 27th, 2008, 11:45 AM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

I'm not going to address the other advice given in this thread, there are just too many individual points to deal with.

The wife doesn't automatically acquire title to anything that was not owned "by the entireties", and this is usually limited to real estate that was titled in the names of both spouses. Everything else becomes part of his estate, and has to be disposed of under the laws of the State. This will either be under a Will or under the rules of intestacy (relating to degrees of kinship; in this case, probably mostly to the wife, and some to the kids). An Executor has to be appointed to handle the estate under a Will, or an Administrator gets appointed for intestacy, and either one is appointed through the Register of Wills for the county where he died.

Note that a separate estate will have to be opened in any State where he owned real estate that will pass through probate.

The Executor or Administrator (either is called the Personal Representative) is PERSONALLY responsible for what he/she does with the estate assets, and this includes tort liability for negligent entrustment. If I were advising the PR for this estate, I'd recommend that EVERY gun be transferred via an FFL, because of the exemption in the UFA for such transfers; if you transfer via an FFL under the UFA rules, then you are immune from criminal & civil prosecution for any resulting misdeeds (such as when Cousin Jethro takes his inheritance and shoots up his local school.) I would never just hand out estate guns, because there's always the chance that some idiot will consider it to be a "cold" piece, untraceable, and sell it for drugs. The police will trace it back to the deceased, find out who the PR was, and ask some hard questions regarding disposition of that gun.

Remember also that you don't know who is a prohibited person and who isn't, even if it's your blood relative. We get posters on this site who don't know whether they themselves are prohibited, and they know everything they've done. Your cousin Ellie Mae might not have wanted to share her news of that drug conviction with you over the Thanksgiving dinner table

As for interstate transfer, the safest approach is to hand it to a local FFL, who ships to an FFL in the heir's state, who transfers it to the heir. This is legal, and it avoids common troubles with shippers who either are unable or unwilling to accept guns from average citizens. You can also ship it yourself if it's going to an FFL, but this is not always going to go well at the shipping counter.

Suspected NFA firearms should always be investigated thoroughly, because their potential value is high. Some lawyers commit malpractice by turning them in to police, because they are ignorant and scared. This forfeits thousands of dollars in estate value, which is not exactly what you pay your estate attorney to do. ALWAYS look for the approved & stamped NFA forms, the PR has a window of time to determine the status, and even if it's contraband the PR will not be criminally liable for taking the time to figure it out. It's a breach of fiduciary duty to get skittish and forfeit any NFA gun to police, until it's known that it's unregistered.

Last edited by GunLawyer001; May 27th, 2008 at 01:57 PM.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

^^Good points about the prohibited persons things and letting FFL's deal with it.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 12:14 PM
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Default Re: Advice on transfer of firearms - death of a family member

Thanks for the responses. They have been very helpful. Any additional thoughts on the transfer through Massachusetts and New York from Maine? Can one of the Executors do this? Could an FFL lawfully transport the collection from Maine to PA and then handle the disposition from there? I imagine that the FFL would have to have his normal place of business in PA?
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