Keeping Your Estate Plan Private

August 19, 2017

disinheritance clausePrivacy is a main concern for many clients when it comes to estate planning.  One benefit of creating a Living Trust, as opposed to simply drafting a Will, is the opportunity to keep your assets and your plans as private as you want them to be.  If keeping your estate plan private is something you worry about, you don’t have to.  We can help you to create the perfect estate plan, and keep it from prying eyes.
Wills become public record during probate
What makes an estate plan public or private is the type of estate planning tool you choose.  When you draft a Will, you must include specific instructions regarding your beneficiaries, which assets they will get, and who will be responsible for seeing that all of your instructions are followed.  However, a Will must be filed with the local probate court in order to put those instructions into action.  This means the details of your Will, including the identity of your beneficiaries and the nature of your assets, become public record.
Essentially, as soon as the Will is recorded, anyone can go to the probate court and request to see it.  In fact, they can obtain copies of your probate documents.  Often, the public nature of these proceedings results in conflict and dispute between those you may have disinherited, those who disagree with your life choices, or those who seek to take advantage of beneficiaries.  The solution is creating an estate plan based on a Trust, instead of a Will.
A trust-based estate plan remains private
The good news is, a Revocable Living Trust, for example, constitutes a private contract between you and the Trustee.  With a Living Trust, you continue to have authority over the estate while you are alive, including making decisions about how to invest your assets and how to spend the income.  Then, if you become mentally incapacitated or upon your death, your Trustee takes over the management of the trust.  Your Trustee will follow your instructions and distribute your assets to your beneficiaries as required in the Trust agreement - all with complete privacy among the Trustee, the beneficiaries, and the law firm.
How can a Revocable Living Trust stay private?
The principal difference between a Will and a Living Trust is the fact that the trust is not filed in court.  Your instructions can be followed without your estate going through the probate process, where everything is open to the public.  At no point does your Trust agreement have to be submitted to court or recorded in the public record.  Only your Trustee and beneficiaries will be privy to its terms.
Deciding which route to take
If it is important to you that your family and finances remain private, you should seriously consider using a Revocable Living Trust as your principal estate planning tool.  There are many other benefits provided by Revocable Living Trusts, as well.  Discuss all of your options with your estate planning attorney, in order to make the best decision for you.
If you have questions regarding power of attorney, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.

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