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My father passed away in April of this year, and despite insisting he had a will, he apparently never got around to actually making one. Luckily, all of his assets were jointly owned by him and his wife, so we were able to avoid probate for the big stuff.

Unfortunately for us, though, he left behind a large number of firearms and ammunition that we don't really plan on keeping. As we intend to sell the majority of them, what steps do I need to take for us to do so?

Can I contact a few dealers to see if we can sell them, or do we need to go through a lawyer to do so? Do we need to file an AZ Small Estate Affidavit (personal assets under $75k) before we can do anything with these? If so, how do we go about valuing them? Due the the number of firearms, my step mother is understandably worried about transporting them around town.

I've tried looking around online, but searching for "guns" and "laws" on the internet turns up a lot of less-than-credible sources.

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    Does his wife now own the firearms, or are they for some reason part of his estate? Or is that what you're hoping to determine? – phoog Sep 9 '20 at 0:12
  • I guess that's the root of the question. Since there was no will, does ownership of the guns automatically transfer to his wife, or do we need to go the affidavit/probate route to determine ownership? I realize AZ gun laws are probably pretty lax, but I'm not really sure how any of this works. – AZEstateQuestion Sep 9 '20 at 13:57
  • So it seems like this is more a question about probate than about firearms, since you could ask the same about other personal property that your father left behind, with the fact that the property comprises firearms being mentioned in case it adds any significant considerations. Is that correct? – phoog Sep 9 '20 at 19:17
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There are no rules against private sales of firearms in Arizona. If you (or your mother) own the guns, you can sell them to anyone you like unless you have reason to believe they are a prohibited possessor.

  • There is no legal requirement for you to validate their identity.
  • There is no limit on the number of guns you can sell to one person.
  • A bill of sale is optional.
  • You don't need a lawyer and, honestly, I'm not sure what a lawyer would do to help you sell a gun.

The laws, being what they are, lead some to conclude that this must be how prohibited possessors get their guns. It's not. Most "illegal" guns are bought through straw purchases in which a person with a clean record buys a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to own one.

You can work through a licensed dealer if it makes you feel better. If you don't want to use a dealer, you can simply require that a buyer have a concealed carry license as evidence that they are not a prohibited possessor. The CCW is not a surefire way to guarantee anything though.

Personally, I would transact a private party sale with individuals via a dealer. You're in AZ. There is no shortage of gun buyers!

At the risk of breaking site rules, you can also list guns online. For example, www.gunbroker.com is a popular site and follows an eBay-style bid structure (I have no affiliation to them). This model ensures that you get market price for the gun rather than trusting that a dealer is going to give you a fair price (they won't; they make their money buying cheap and selling at market rate).

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  • The question about whether to contact a lawyer was basically related to whether or not ownership of the guns transfers to his wife now that he has passed away, since there was no will. I'm not really sure how gun ownership laws work, especially in AZ (I live in a different state). – AZEstateQuestion Sep 9 '20 at 13:55
  • The surviving spouse inherits everything under Arizona law. This assumes that there are no other descendants of your father who are not the children of your mother. I also assume that your mother is legally allowed to possess firearms. It gets a little sticky if either one of my assumptions are incorrect. – acpilot Sep 9 '20 at 15:19
  • Since the question refers to "my father" and "his wife," it seems likely that the wife isn't the asker's mother and that there is therefore at least one child of the decedent who is not the child of the decedent's wife. Indeed, on re-reading the question I see the phrase "step mother." – phoog Sep 9 '20 at 19:14
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Reference also: What needs to be done if I'm inheriting a gun?

In Arizona, as in most of the United States, most firearms are not "registered" in any sense.* Therefore, absent a will directing otherwise: For purposes of spousal inheritance, firearms are treated the same way as any other communal chattels. I.e., a wife presumably maintains ownership of her decedent husband's firearms collection just like she would his stamp or book collections.

As the owner, your mother or her agent can sell her firearms in accordance with state and federal law. Presently, in order to sell a firearm to a resident of a different state you will have to send it through a FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee) in the purchaser's state. If you are uncertain of the laws in your own state you can likewise avoid running afoul of any laws governing firearm sales by paying a local FFL to perform the actual transfer of the firearm to a buyer.

* NFA "Title II" firearms – machineguns, short-barrel rifles, suppressors, and other unusual firearms (AOWs) – must be registered with the BATFE. The registration and compliance process for NFA items is substantial enough that typically the registered owner would mention it to family, and (hopefully) the registration paperwork is kept together with the registered items. Again: if in doubt an FFL can determine whether a firearm is an NFA item.

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In lieu of taking an answer as solid advice, I would suggest confirming with the ATF or a licensed ATF firearm dealer to confirm Arizona law does not conflict with state law. It is common and here's an article about that very topic.

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