How executors deal with firearms in NY estate plans

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2020 | Estate Administration & Probate |

Guns can be very personal. Often, a gun owner will pass down a treasured hunting rifle or other firearm through generations. New York State has specific laws that address the inheritance of guns, and decedents, executors and beneficiaries must follow them to ensure that the family does not lose it.

In many cases, the executor or administrator of the estate handles the firearm as it is transferred to the individual who will inherit it. This means that they can also be liable for failing to follow New York laws. Here are a few things that an executor must understand to properly transfer a firearm.

Did the decedent legally own the firearm?

There should be proof that the decedent, the owner of the gun who has passed, legally owned it. This means that they had a license and registered it when necessary.

If a firearm is not properly registered, the executor should surrender it to authorities, or they may be liable for the criminal act of having an improperly registered firearm.

Is the beneficiary legally allowed to own the firearm?

Those with serious criminal convictions and felonies cannot have a gun. These people cannot get the proper license to have the gun and therefore cannot inherit one.

If the executor gives a firearm to someone who is not legally able to own one or does not first get the proper licensing and registration, they may be liable.

How should the firearm be transferred?

Executors and administrators are exempt from the New York law that says possession of a firearm without proper license and registration is a crime. According to section 265.20, they can hold a firearm for up to 15 days.

After 15 days, the executor must transfer the gun to the beneficiary or give it to law enforcement, who will hold it for up to a year. If the executor does not request delivery to the beneficiary within that year-long period, law enforcement may dispose it.

Executors also must file a “firearms inventory” with the New York courts to document their possession of the gun and the transfer to the beneficiary.