Saturday, April 16, 2016

ATF comments on gun trusts, cont.

Previously, we wrote about comments made by NFA Branch attorney Bill Ryan regarding problematic gun trust templates, wherein he called out the SilencerCo "Easytrust" as one of the worst examples.  David Goldman, one of the most widely known gun trust lawyers in the country, blogged about Ryan's comments on his website, quoting from other blogs, such as from attorney Joshua Prince and The Truth About Guns.

Well, SilencerCo has chosen to fight back, attacking Goldman for his blog post, even though he was just repeating the comments of others.  Their comments are prefaced with the statement that the comments were prepared "by the team of lawyers that wrote our trust."  The comments immediately label Goldman as just "an attorney who wants customers to use his legal services instead of our form..." and then go on to justify the lack of direction provided by their trust template which lead to being called out by the ATF as okay because "many trust users don’t need a detailed, lengthy, highly customized trust."

They go on to highlight the bare minimum requirements necessary for establishing a trust and seem to suggest that these bare-bones minimums is all a person needs when their trust is managing NFA weapons.  They even go so far as to challenge Goldman (who again was quoting others who were quoting NFA Branch attorney Bill Ryan) regarding Ryan's assertion that the Easytrust directs successor trustees to violate the law by directing them to simply distribute out NFA weapons without going through the proper procedures.  They state: "...a trust document cannot direct you to break the law.  When the document says the items will be transferred to the beneficiaries, it is assumed and implied in the terms of the trust that you will do it in a legal manner consistent with NFA requirements."

Say what?  We have personally dealt with a handful of cases in the last couple of years where a surviving spouse or other relative who was the personal representative or successor trustee for their spouse/relative didn't have a clue about how they should handle these weapons, and in a couple of cases, were handing NFA weapons out like candy on Halloween.  Do you really want documents that "assume and imply" what a successor trustee should do to avoid getting tagged with a 10-year felony prison sentence or up to a quarter-million in fines?  "Assuming and implying" is what causes handshake agreements to not work and is why written contracts become necessary to expressly spell out what the parties are required to do.  In the practice of law, not taking steps to protect your client is called malpractice, especially when it is so easy in a situation like this to provide something far better.  The deliberate choice to eliminate critical guidance for successor trustees seems almost bizarre.

You can rest assured that a 28-page template for $119 will be worth it's weight in gold.  It has the directions and guidance your successors will need to keep them out of trouble and to make sure that your trust can function as intended.  Don't leave it to chance.  Never assume and imply when dealing with potential felony prison terms!

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