What should I do when inheriting guns and other firearms?

Inheriting firearms, such as shotguns or other weapons, can be a complex and potentially delicate matter. It is important to take the situation seriously, as legal authorities treat the possession of firearms by unlicensed individuals with great gravity. Inadvertently breaking the law is a risk you can’t afford to take. So, what should you do if you find yourself inheriting a shotgun, rifle or other firearm?

The first crucial step is not to touch the firearms. Instead, leave them, along with any ammunition, securely locked away, as only the licensed holder typically has access. It’s essential to handle this situation with care and responsibility.

You should then contact the executors as they have the authority to decide what to do with the guns.

Once you have contacted the executors, the executors will need to inform their local firearms licencing department of the death of the owner of the firearms.

What steps can the executors take when inheriting firearms?

Apply for a temporary permit

The process for applying for a temporary permit is discussed in more detail below.

Hand over any firearms to a registered firearms dealer

The executors may want to place the firearms in the hands of a registered firearms dealer. A dealer can then arrange to store the items, or sell them on behalf of the executors. If the executors choose to do this, they should contact the local firearms licencing team of their local police force to inform them that they have arranged this.

Transfer the firearms to another certificate or licence holder

Again, the executors should contact their local firearms licencing team for advice on whether they can transfer the firearms to their chosen person. The firearms licencing team will need to make checks of the intended holder to make sure that they have the appropriate authority to acquire the firearms, and have sufficient storage to hold them.

Ask the police to dispose of the firearms

The executors should only opt for disposal of the firearms as a last resort, particularly as the items may hold some value to the estate.

How do I transfer the guns onto my own licence or certificate?

If you already have your own licence or certificate, you can apply to have the firearms transferred to you.

Notify your local firearms licencing team to explain how you came into possession of the guns. Details of how to arrange a transfer will be provided to you by your local firearms licencing team.

I don’t have a shotgun certificate or firearms licence

If you lack a shotgun certificate or firearms license, you can request the executors to apply for a temporary permit.

This permit is known as a “Section 7 permit” under the Firearms Act 1968.

You should ask the executors to do this as soon as possible. The guns will need to be placed in a safe space with a licensed holder. Alternatively, ask a friend or relative to put the guns onto their own certificate until a permit is issued. Another option is to ask a local gun shop to store them for you.

A temporary permit gives executors authority to take lawful possession of the guns until they decide what to do.

Certain firearms are exempt from a licence. This includes antique guns which cannot be fired or which are used for display purposes only. If you think a gun may be exempt, you should contact your local firearms licensing for advice.

You may want to apply for a licence if you do not already have one. Your local firearms licensing team will usually have a form for this. Contact them to find out what their requirements are. They will also let you know if you need to pay any fees for this.

How do the executors apply for a temporary permit?

The executors should contact their local firearms licensing team to submit an application for a temporary permit.

They can request that the permit be for a specified period of time. Usually, 3 or 6 months will give the executors ample time to decide what to do with the firearms.

Applying for a temporary permit is free of charge.

Who should I contact to have the firearms valued?

Because of the specialist nature of firearms, you should contact a registered firearms dealer to arrange a probate valuation.

The possession of a firearms in a public place without lawful authority or excuse is a criminal offence. You should contact the valuers in advance to arrange a date for you to take the firearms to them. You should keep any items in a closed bag or box while transporting them. If you are the executor, you should keep some proof of this on you when transporting the items. This could be a solicitor’s letter or a copy of the will and the death certificate.

Can I sell the firearms?

Yes, when inheriting firearms, you can choose to sell them if you wish. Ideally, you should ask a specialised firearms dealer to sell them on your behalf. A firearms dealer will be able to handle any paperwork to transfer the ownership to the buyer. They will also make any appropriate checks on a buyer before a sale takes place.

Other Useful Guides

Dealing with personal belongings after a death

What is Probate and do I need it?