When a person who was the holder of a firearms licence dies, it is very important that any firearms that were in their possession are kept in safe custody by someone authorised to have them. Firearms Services should also be notified as soon as possible.

Unregistered firearms must be surrendered at a police station or taken to a licensed firearms dealer as soon as possible.

In the case of a registered firearm, section 147 of the Firearms Act 1996 requires that after someone’s death, the person who gains possession of any firearm must; as soon as is reasonably practicable; take it to either a police station or a person who holds a firearms licence of the category appropriate to that firearm (referred to as the ‘keeper’).

The keeper must then hold the firearm in their safe custody (ie: stored in accordance with the Act) until:

  • it is lawfully claimed by a beneficiary who has a licence of the appropriate category and a permit for that particular firearm.
  • A personal representative, trustee or beneficiary of the deceased estate requests the firearm be delivered to a licensed firearms dealer for sale on their behalf.

To ensure these procedures are followed, upon being notified of the death of a firearms licence holder, Firearms Services will make inquiries with the nominated next of kin as to who is ‘keeping’ the firearm while the estate is being finalised.  Firearms Services will also contact the keeper to remind them of their obligations under the Act and records are updated to show the current arrangements relating to the firearm/s.

To determine the beneficiary of a firearm and/or who is authorised to dispose of it, Firearms Services will refer to the standard rules relating to the administration of deceased estates in Tasmania.

If the deceased left a will, the executor appointed under the will is the person responsible for advising Firearms Services as to any instructions regarding the firearm.  Depending on the size of the estate, a grant of probate may be issued by the Supreme Court to authorise the executor to distribute assets such as firearms and if so, a copy of the grant of probate should be provided to Firearms Services.

Where a person dies without having left a will, they are considered to have died intestate.  In such cases an administrator will be appointed by the Supreme Court to distribute the estate.  In this situation the administrator (often this is the next of kin) is responsible for advising Firearms Services as to any instructions regarding the firearm.  Letters of administration should be provided to Firearms Services as proof of the authority of the administrator.

Once the beneficiary of the firearm/s has been determined, Firearms Services contact that person to commence the process to transfer registration of the firearm/s in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act.  Sometimes a beneficiary is identified, however that person does not hold a licence of the appropriate category, in which case they cannot take possession of the firearm until they apply for the appropriate endorsement and seek a permit to acquire the firearm in accordance with standard procedures.

A firearm belonging to a deceased estate must not be released by a keeper, dealer or police station (if it is has been surrendered) unless in accordance with the process outlined above.

Generally speaking a Statutory Declaration by the person authorised to distribute the assets of the deceased estate is required before the firearm can be transferred to a beneficiary.

It should also be noted when a firearm is delivered to a licensed firearms dealer, the dealer acts as an agent and is entitled to charge a reasonable amount for their services.

For any other information about what happens when a firearms licence holder dies, please feel free to contact Firearms Services via email to firearms.services@police.tas.gov.au or phone (03) 6173 2720.