You could be forgiven for assuming that privacy laws protect your family’s most intimate affairs and yet, at least where estate planning is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth. Once you have passed away, anyone can dig around and try to learn what came of your life’s work and, if you built your estate plan around a traditional Last Will and Testament, they’ll likely find what they’re looking for.
When There’s a Will, There’s a Window
The contents of your Will are public information. Or, at least it is as soon as you die, and
your estate executor receives Letters of Testamentary to administer your estate.
While you can (and should) keep the contents of your will private while you are living, you and
your loved ones lose control of this matter when you pass. This is because (except in a few very
limited cases) state law requires that whoever has possession of a deceased person’s will must promptly file it with the local probate court. Court proceedings are a matter of public record and so once your Will has been filed, anyone interested enough to view its contents.
Ugh. That’s creepy, you say, but who would ever do that?
The answer is, well, you never know.
When country singer Naomi Judd died in April, she probably didn’t expect the whole internet to feast on the fact that she had written her two daughters Wynonna and Ashley out of her Will. Indeed, she may not even have realized the whole world could access that information and if she had, perhaps she would have done things differently.
Likewise, when legendary Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney died in 2014, he surely didn’t intend to broadcast the fact that he had left seven of his eight surviving biological children and his wife out of his Will. Nonetheless, the public nature of this document meant that that is exactly what happened.
While it may be that only celebrities need to worry about such widespread abuse of their
personal information, this doesn’t mean your family’s own intimate affairs won’t end up in the
hand of a nosy neighbor or estranged relative. Luckily, if you’re concerned about the privacy of
your estate planning, there’s a simple fix to the problem.
Protect Your Privacy with a Living Trust
A living trust is an alternate method for distributing your assets after you die. Unlike a Will,
assets placed in a trust can be distributed without court supervision which means the public need not know what you chose to do with your life’s work.
When you establish a trust, you articulate instructions concerning how you wish the trust’s
contents to be distributed. Your designated trustee carries fiduciary responsibility to execute
these wishes and your loved ones gain access to their inheritance without having to suffer the
trials of probate.
An experienced estate planning attorney is your best resource for more information about the
nuances of trust legislation. To speak to someone today about the subject, do not hesitate to
contact the Polaris Law Group either by calling or using the contact form on our