Maybe you’ve always been a private person — maybe not. One thing is for certain, however: All the privacy you have pretty much goes out the window once you pass away, and your will gets filed with the local probate court.
At that point, your will is a matter of public record — along with the names and addresses of your heirs, the value of your estate, any debts you may have owed and more. That can be particularly concerning if your estate has a lot of value and you’re worried about vultures swooping in and taking advantage of your loved ones while they’re vulnerable.
What can you do to maintain your privacy?
In essence, you can preserve your family’s privacy by making your will a very small part of your estate plans. By making use of a combination of payable-on-death designations, direct-pay beneficiary designations (on insurance policies and the like) and trusts, you can generally keep the vast majority of your estate out of probate entirely.
For example, you can gradually shift the majority of your assets into a revocable living trust during your lifetime and set up a “pour-over” will to capture any asset you may have either forgotten or simply not had time to transfer prior to your death. While the assets in your will may still be visible to the public, you can keep prying eyes out of the rest of your estate — because trusts are not public records.
Estate plans are like families: There’s no one right way to handle them all. The sooner you start investigating your options, the easier it will be to make sure that your family’s future is secured.