A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your estate divided or handled after you pass away. It’s a great way to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve and protect your loved ones. Unfortunately, wills also have a way of causing family turmoil if certain members do not agree with the way you are dividing your estate.
The good news is that you have the right to keep your will private while you are living. Family, friend and business associates do not have the legal right to know the contents of your will. Of course, if you want certain people to know how your will distributes your estate, you can share the information with whomever you choose.
The thing to remember is that wills become public record upon the owner’s death and the filing of a probate action. That means that all of your surviving family members – and even strangers – can know exactly how you divided your estate after you pass on.
The Public Will Loophole
If the idea of having your will become public record makes you uncomfortable, you can create a revocable trust to maintain your privacy at death. A revocable trust will not become public record.
Facts About Revocable Trusts
- The terms can be altered through trust amendments
- They could be subject to state and federal estate taxes
- There is no probate process for revocable trusts if the trust is fully funded with all of your assets while you are living
- It typically remains a private document that only your trustee and beneficiaries will read
- It can be challenged by surviving family members, just as a will can
Revocable trusts are not for everyone. The best way to determine whether a will or revocable trust is right for your unique situation is by consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer.