Convincing a client’s elderly parent or grandparent with eyesight problems that it’s time to turn over the car keys can lead to family squabbles. The elder, who has driven for decades, can resent the loss of independence that giving up the keys represents.

Now try to take away his guns — and any fight over the car keys will seem mild in comparison.

Besides safety issues, passing down Granddad’s gun collection might also require legal assistance. Many gun owners create Gun Trusts, which allow collectors to pass down weapons to loved ones without inadvertently breaking any laws.

The Numbers

According to a national survey, more than a quarter of people 65 years old and older own guns — nearly 10.5 million people. Additionally, the Veterans Health Administration has found that 40 percent of veterans with dementia owned guns. (http://tinyurl.com/27t3ryt)

Getting a proud, independent senior to hand over a gun isn’t just a safety issue — it literally can be an issue of life and death. In a recent article, Forbes cites 2010 statistics that showed that more than 4,000 people 65 and older committed suicide by firearm that year — 3,000 aged 55 to 64 died that way. (http://tinyurl.com/bsfvjta)

Clients should be especially concerned if an elderly loved one is overcome by grief, such as after a spouse’s death.

Many older American gun owners cite safety and selfprotection as a reason for owning a gun, as in The New York Times story. But statistics from U.S. Bureau of Justice indicate that the risk of being a victim of robbery, rape or violent assault is lower among the elderly than any other age group. (http://tinyurl.com/chhbtfa)

To address safety concerns, many home health agencies ask elderly clients to remove guns from their homes as a condition of sending aides in to assist clients. Others, the Times reports, only require this for patients with dementia.

What to Do

Forbes suggested keeping these thoughts in mind: Determine if the gun owner is still competent to keep a weapon and whether the reasons he had it in the first place are still valid. In many jurisdictions, your clients can’t just remove a gun and take it to their own house because it may be considered larceny. Ask the police for help.

Gun Trusts

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the growing interest in Gun Trusts. (http://tinyurl.com/kz3g2s9) Such trusts are widely considered a responsible way to own and pass on a firearm. It provides a set of rules for how you want firearms to be managed during your life in the event of incapacity and after your death.

Pricing for Gun Trusts varies. However, we believe such an important issue as transferring firearms should not depend on “bargain shopping.”

Your clients should hire an experienced estate planning attorney who is familiar with local, state and federal gun laws to draft these important documents. We are always here to offer you and your clients guidance on these issues.

We hope this information was useful to you and helps your clients and their families. If you have a specific case or a question, don’t hesitate to call our office.

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