There seems to be a lot of confusion about using a special “Gun Trust” vs a garden variety revocable living trust when buying a silencer (or any other NFA weapon).
First of all, the ATF doesn’t care who created your trust or how it was created; but, they do have some rules that you need to keep in mind:
The trust itself needs to be legal
This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to put off filling out that Schedule A for another day. (This also applies to a lawyer-created trust, since many of them will email and/or mail you a document and you’ll need to complete some final steps – like getting it notarized.)
My advise here is, whatever route you decide to take, be sure to follow it through to completion so you end up with a completely legal document.
Everyone in the trust should be allowed to own NFA weapons
This is an area where it can be easy to get tripped up when doing it yourself; but, if you don’t try to get fancy, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Just remember to keep everyone out of the trust that cannot own an NFA weapon, such as a silencer, on the day you create the trust. Just to be clear, when I say to keep them out of the trust – I’m also talking about beneficiaries.
People who shouldn’t be in the trust include children younger than 21 and anyone who has a felony conviction. Basically, anyone who couldn’t go buy a handgun over the counter.
A big advantage of using a lawyer is that they will include special wording to handle beneficiaries who are too young now to take possession of the silencer.
Keep the name short!
Most do-it-yourself trust software will try to create an excessively long trust name – like “Revocable Living Trust for John Allen Doe and Jane Susan Doe of Austin Texas”. That’s great until you decide to use an ATF Form 1 to add a short-barrel rifle to the trust…
With the form 1, one requirement is that you need to have the trust name engraved on your lower receiver – at which point, you will wish the trust was just named “Doe Trust” or “Doe NFA Trust”.
The funny thing is that many online guides for creating NFA trusts actually focus most of their time on how to rename the trust before printing.
Put something in the trust before submitting it
You need to have something in the trust for it to be legal – but you should NOT include the suppressor before you get your tax stamp back. I’ve read some lawyers making the argument that, legally, you should be able to add the silencer – but the NFA branch will often kick those applications back. In my opinion, it’s best to just play it safe rather than trying to prove some legal point to the ATF.
One common approach is to simply add a one dollar bill to the trust before you use it. Then you can paperclip the dollar bill to the trust until your tax stamp comes back just to keep track of it.
Once you get the tax stamp, remove the dollar bill and add the suppressor information – it’s as easy as that.
As I’ve said many times, if you want to play it safe or if you’re not confident in your abilities to create a legal trust – go find a good gun trust lawyer. There are quite a few lawyers who specialize in gun trusts and they can typically get your trust done quickly and for a minimal expense.
On the other hand, creating your own trust is a viable option for those who like to do it yourself.