Did you know that some aspects of your estate become public upon your death? If you are a private person, you may find this information disturbing. The good news is, there are ways of maintaining privacy in Massachusetts estate plans, if that is important to you.
Private Versus Public Information
Anything that goes through probate court essentially becomes part of court records and is therefore available publicly. The details of court proceedings can be requested by anyone. Thus, the best way to start protecting your privacy is to avoid probate. To do so, you need an estate plan.
There’s No Privacy in a Will
Many people are under the mistaken impression that a will is sufficient for estate planning and that maintaining privacy in Massachusetts estate plans is somehow automatic. In fact, it is not. Wills do not avoid probate and therefore offer no privacy! You need other estate planning mechanisms to do so.
One perfect example of this is the case of Burt Reynolds. When he passed away, he actually excluded his son from his will. He noted, “I intentionally omit him from this, my Last Will and Testament, as I have provided for him during my lifetime in my Declaration of Trust.” His will did not actually bequeath any assets. Instead, his assets were all held in a trust, the terms of which remained private.
Trusts and Maintaining Privacy in Massachusetts Estate Plans
Trusts are a great way to maintain your privacy, but it must be the right type of trust and managed properly. For instance, all assets must be transferred into the trust. Anything accidentally left out may still be subject to probate. Federal and state laws apply to the formation of trusts, tax liabilities, and protections against creditors. Thus, there are many aspects of trusts to consider before forming one.
Working with a good estate planning attorney and regularly updating your estate plan are essential! Your estate plan may have many goals, with privacy being just one of them. By discussing this with your Massachusetts estate planning attorney, you can formulate a plan that works for your unique situation. Contact Simmons & Schiavo to schedule a consultation.