It’s possible for you to pass on your guns to beneficiaries after your death in California, but you should know what the law will expect of them. If they don’t meet certain requirements, they may have to dispose of the firearms.
Temporary waiting period
Your beneficiary will usually have to wait about 10 days to receive your firearms. A Federal Firearm Licensed (FFL) dealer holds the firearms during the waiting period. You must complete a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS), which will include a background check with the state Department of Justice.
Registered assault weapons
An exception to the standard 10-day waiting period is if you’re passing on registered assault weapons. The new owner will have up to 90 days to register the weapon with the California Department of Justice to keep it. Otherwise, they must render the assault weapon inoperable, transport it out of state or sell it to an FFL dealer. They only have 90 days to take one of these actions. You should inform beneficiaries of these important rules. California will confiscate any unregistered assault weapons that you attempt to pass on.
You can’t pass on firearms that have had their serial numbers changed or modified long guns with barrels that are less than 18.25 inches. California requires anyone who inherits such weapons to dispose of them.
Gun trusts are an estate planning strategy to consider, especially if you would like more than one beneficiary to be able to use the firearms. A gun trust allows more than one beneficiary to use the firearm on their own. If you pass down the gun to one owner in a will, then only they can use it, unless they are present when another person borrows it. Another benefit of a gun trust is it helps your beneficiary avoid transfer taxes.
Although you can pass on firearms in your estate plan, you should inform your executor and beneficiaries about the law around inheriting firearms to prevent problems. Laws may change over time, so you should also check your estate plan yearly to keep it up to date.