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Wiley & Mathews

Passing on a gun collection to an heir

For some people, guns are just utilitarian devices that they use for hunting or protection. For others, guns are collector's items, valuable pieces of family history or part of their cultural identity. If you have a prized gun collection -- or even just a few special pistols that have been in your family for a while -- it's only natural to want to pass those on to your heirs.

The only problem is that guns aren't like other inheritances. Because of their potential for harm, you have to take a few different things into consideration when making your will:

1. Do any of your heirs want them?

Not everyone is comfortable with having firearms in their house -- even if they are family heirlooms. If none of your heirs seem particularly inclined to treasure the weapons, you may want to arrange to have them sold to a licensed dealer after your death by your executor. Their value can then be added to your estate and divided according to the terms of your will.

2. Is your intended heir allowed to have them?

Both federal regulations and state laws put specific restrictions on who can legally own a firearm. If you leave your weapons to someone who is considered a "prohibited" person -- unable to legally possess guns because of their criminal history, a record of mental instability or some other reason -- they won't be able to claim them.

When you're puzzled over how to handle a complicated heirloom or have questions about how to divide your estate, it may be wise to check with an attorney about your options. There may be a few that you've never considered.

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