Firearms in an Estate


If you wish to nominate an heir for your firearms

Funeral Guide advises that you carefully consider who among family members or friends are stable and suitable heirs for these items.  It is ideal if your chosen heir already has competency certificates relevant to the type of firearms you own, (hand guns, rifles or shot guns). If they do not already have these certificates, approach your nominated heir, discuss it with them and suggest that they go to a shooting range or gunsmith to begin the process of obtaining a competency certificate in the meantime. This will prevent the handover becoming an added burden on those you choose as heirs, and prevent the firearms from being confiscated for not being in the possession of a licensed, or certified competent owner.


If you have inherited a firearm

If the deceased is a registered owner of firearms there are various options for the beneficiary.  According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 which came into effect on 1 July 2004 the heir has the following for options:

  1. To hand the firearms to a dealer.
  2. To hand the firearms to the Police to be destroyed.
  3. To arrange for the firearms to be deactivated by a gunsmith.  The gunsmith must issue a certificate to confirm that this has been done.
  4. To apply for a new license in terms of the Firearms Control Act No. 60 of 2000.  This involves writing a test with the South African Police Services and obtaining a Competency Certificate from an accredited agent.  It also involves a background check by the South African Police Services and complying with gun safe regulations.


If You Choose to Keep the Inherited Firearm

If you choose to keep the inherited firearm you need to obtain a licence.  In terms of the Firearms Control Act 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000), inheriting a firearm is not motivation enough to obtain a firearm licence.  The person who inherits the firearm, will have to apply for a firearm licence according to one of the licensing categories.  It may be mentioned in the application that the firearm is a family heirloom.  The person who inherits the firearm may only take possession of the firearm when he or she has the licence for the particular firearm.

Click here for details on Firearm Licence Application


Immediate procedure to follow regarding inherited firearms

Care must be taken by the executor or anyone who holds an inherited firearm to make sure that all documentation is correct and complete, otherwise the holder of the firearm will be prosecuted for holding an illegal firearm, which is a criminal offence with severe penalties. Only the person who holds a license, or has authorization to possess the firearm may transport that firearm to and from the place where the firearm is safely stored.

  1. An Heir, next of kin or the deceased’s family who has proper storage facilities for firearms must take the firearms, and in terms of section 21 of the Act, immediately apply for a temporary permit to possess a firearm. If no proper storage facilities are available, arrangements must be made with a licensed firearms dealer to store the firearms until licences are obtained. Storage costs are for the estate account.

  3. The application must be made on an SAPS 518 form and must be handed to the relevant designated firearms officer in the area where the applicant resides. The temporary permit must be valid at least until an appointment of executor notification has been issued.

  5. The executor or person administering the estate must be given full particulars of the deceased’s firearms and ammunition so that an inventory can be drawn up in accordance with regulation 103(3)(a) of the Act.

  7. The executor must also be given full particulars of the person who has the deceased’s firearms and ammunition in safekeeping with a copy of the permit if such a permit was issued.


The Executor’s Role Regarding Firearms

The following is a basic guide to what the executor should do according to the information at our disposal.  While Funeral Guide has attempted to decipher the Act to give a clear list of requirements that are to be complied with we have found inconsistencies and recommend that if there are firearms in an estate the executor consult with a firearms expert. We are currently looking for such individuals to invite onto our database.  If you know of any, please refer them to us so that we can offer their services to others in need.

  1. After notification of appointment as executor has been received, the executor must take the necessary steps to ensure that the firearm and ammunition are stored safely in an approved storage facility as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Act.

  3. Once the executor is satisfied that the deceased’s firearms and ammunition are safely stored as prescribed by Regulation 86 of the Firearms Control Act, he/she issues a letter of consent to the heir concerned for the storage of the firearms and ammunition. A copy of the letter of consent must be lodged with the designated firearms officer of the area where the heir lives, with a request that the officer visit the person who has been given permission to keep the firearms in safe storage, to ensure that all the requirements are being complied with.The letter of consent must specify:
        • How long the person concerned may hold the firearms in safe storage.
        • The reason for safekeeping.
        • Adequate particulars to enable identification of the licence, permit of authorization and the firearm.
        • The name, identity number and physical address of the deceased licence holder.
        • The name, identity number and physical address of the person whom permission has been given to hold the firearm in safe storage.
        • The permission is for storage only and not for use.


  4. Within 14 days of receipt of notification of appointment of executor, the Registrar of Firearms must be provided with the following documents and information:
    • Inventory as referred to above.
    • Name of deceased and physical address at which he/she resided.
    • Address at which the firearms are stored.
    • A copy of the executor’s letter of permission to the heir for storage.
    • Copy of the death certificate.
    • Copy of the executor’s letter of appointment.
    • Names, addresses and ID of all beneficiaries if the firearms and ammunition must be transferred as per testamentary stipulations of law of intestate succession.
  5. The Registrar must then record the particulars in the Central Firearms Register and acknowledge receipt thereof. At least every three months the executor must inform the Registrar in writing of the progress and the steps taken to transfer such firearms and ammunition.

  7. The Application for a firearm licence can be a long process, it is essential that the heir commence the process immediately. All documentation is to be completed in black ink. As soon as the solvency and liquidity of the estate has been established, the heir is given possession of all the documentation from the executor for transfer of the firearm. This documentation includes a properly completed SAPS 271 form, a copy of the executor’s letter and permission for the transfer of the firearm. A copy of the permission must be sent to the Central Firearms Registry.

  9. The Act determines that an executor cannot finally wind up the estate before the Central Firearms Registry has confirmed with him/her that all firearms that were in the name of the deceased have been transferred.



If Firearms Cannot be Found

If the executor, next of kin or heirs cannot find the firearms, the procedure for stolen or lost firearms must be followed.  Contact the South African Police Services.