The contents of your will, from creditors you owe to chosen beneficiaries, are deeply personal matters. You realize the importance of maintaining their confidentiality until your executor needs to step in. However, this privacy is short-lived. Once you pass, the specifics of your estate can become part of the public record through probate.
What information becomes public
Probate administration is a court-supervised process that comes into play after a person’s passing. Their appointed personal representative bears the responsibility of wrapping up their financial affairs. This involves validating the will, settling outstanding debts with creditors and finally, ensuring the transfer of assets to the named beneficiaries.
Specific details, such as cause of death, inventory or accounting, will remain accessible only to certain people including the deceased’s personal representative, attorney or other interested parties. However, other important information in your will may become publicly available, including:
- The name and contact information of the executor
- Any codicil or orders to revoke a will that may include information regarding changes to an inheritance or beneficiary
- Where your assets are distributed, including creditors and beneficiaries
Most people assume that, given the sensitivity of the information involved, it should remain confidential. However, these details become public because the executor must file a will in probate court.
Although these records are not available online, anyone could go to the courthouse and request to see your will. Unfortunately, this could open the door for interested parties to contest your will, scammers and burglars to target your beneficiaries and other potential problems.
Can you avoid probate?
To avoid probate, consider passing on assets through a trust instead. Trusts are not filed with a probate court, which may allow you to keep these matters private. In a trust, you appoint a trustee to manage your estate how you wish.
You can also design a trust to fit whatever needs you may have. You can have a trust that controls how a beneficiary receives funds or one that allows a beneficiary with disabilities to receive funds without affecting their eligibility for public assistance benefits.
It’s only natural that you’d want to keep the details of your financial affairs private. An attorney can guide you through alternatives that might be a more fitting solution for your needs.