Many people understand that a will is important to pass on property to your heirs. However, most people do not understand that a will is a publicly available document.
A will requires the probate court to operate. It can be thought of as your instructions to the probate court in how your property is to be distributed, in what amount, to whom, and who is in charge of your estate. It may also include private and personal messages to your heirs or even establish guardianship for your children. Since a will needs the probate court to be enforceable, it must be entered into the court’s public record. This is the problem.
Anyone who wants access to the will and the information it contains can easily get it. Whether its simply a nosy neighbor, an aggressive creditor, or even a scam artist, they know exactly how to go about getting access to the will. It is very common for heirs and executors to be targeted by calls from strangers, both good and bad, shortly after opening probate and filing the will.
The solution is to use a trust to pass property on to heirs. The privacy and speed a living trust provides is vastly superior to the probate process. The living trust is created while the asset owner is living. They typically control and enjoy the assets as much as they always did. Upon their death, the assets are transferred privately by the successor trustee. There’s no need to involve the probate court or expose personal information to the public during a very difficult time.
People who want to learn more about how to use a revocable living trust to protect their privacy should seek out the guidance of an estate planning attorney. Legal counsel can suggest a variety of tools and options for each client’s situation. Most of all, they can help keep your information, and that of your heirs, away from prying eyes.