March 14, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Gun Trusts, Reloaded

To the Editor:

Michael Sneeringer’s article on gun trusts (Prob. & Prop., Mar./Apr. 2017, at 10) provides information on firearm regulations that is essential for any lawyer tasked with drafting such a trust. I am concerned, however, about one point. Mr. Sneeringer recommends that firearms of historic value be put in a trust of the “dynastic-trust-type” in order “to maintain the firearms within the family for generations to come.” While it is true that some dynasty trust statutes do abolish the rule against perpetuities, others abolish the rule only as to beneficial interests in trust and then only if the trustee has a power of sale over trust assets. See, e.g., N.C. Gen. Stat. § 41-23, which voids a trust if it suspends the power of alienation of trust property for longer than the perpetuities period (a life in being plus 21 years). Even in states that have done away with the rule against perpetuities, there may be a separate rule against suspension of the power of alienation. If alienation of the firearms cannot be suspended indefinitely, then the guns cannot be guaranteed to remain in the family from generation to generation. Drafters of gun trusts must be sure to check the trust law in their state before drafting a perpetual gun trust.

John V. Orth

William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Law

University of North Carolina