When it comes to estate planning, privacy is a common concern for most people. Luckily, there are several options that can be used when creating your estate plan that will provide the customized planning you need to keep the nature of your assets and the identity of your beneficiaries private. Instead of using a simple will, which becomes public during probate, it would be better to create a comprehensive estate plan that allows you to maintain the privacy you and your family want with regard to your estate. Our Orange County estate planning lawyers can help you establish that plan.
If you want privacy, you need to avoid public proceedings like probate
If all you have in your estate plan is your last will and testament, then you are at a disadvantage if you want to maintain privacy. Why? Because a will requires probate and probate is an entirely public process. The document itself must be filed with the local probate court and thus becomes a public record for anyone to see. Every detail of your will is open to the public. That includes the names of all of your beneficiaries as well as the nature of your property and your debts. Put another way, anyone who wants to can request a copy of your will from the probate court and actually receive a copy, if requested.
Consider using revocable living trusts in order to maintain privacy
As our Orange County estate planning lawyers will tell you, using a revocable living trust can be a great option for many reasons. For one, a revocable living trust is a private agreement between the trustor (the person making the trust) and the selected trustee. That means a revocable living trust can provide the privacy you need in your estate plan. With a living trust, you can retain complete authority over the trust and its property during your lifetime. That would include the power to make all decisions regarding financial management, including investments.
Later, if you ever become mentally incapacitated or you pass away, your chosen trustee will take over the management of the trust on your behalf and the behalf of your beneficiaries. At that point, the trustee is essentially the decision maker who is still required to follow the terms of the trust agreement with regard to how your assets need to be distributed. If you have questions about how this works, contact one of our range County estate planning lawyers.
Why a revocable trust can stay private
Basically, the difference between a living trust and a will is whether the court needs to get involved. A trust does not need to be filed in court like a will does. Furthermore, the provisions of your trust are fulfilled immediately at your death or incapacity. That means, there is no need for a public court proceeding. The reality is, it is the probate process that makes your estate plan open to the public. With a living trust, though, only your trustee will know the extent of your assets and the identity of your beneficiaries.
How does a living trust work?
A revocable living trust is much like a will in that it provides instructions regarding how you want to distribute your property to those you have chosen to inherit it. Again, the difference is that your property does not have to go through the probate process if it is controlled by a trust. Since a living trust is revocable you have the ability to cancel or modify the trust at any time. It is considered a “living” trust because it is established while you are still alive, as opposed to becoming effective only at the time of your death. Our Orange County estate planning lawyers can help you make this happen.
Usually, when a revocable living trust is created, you typically appoint yourself as trustee, retaining full power to manage the trust property. Ownership of the asset property is transferred to you, as trustee, allowing you to retain complete control over the trust property. This means you have the authority to sell, mortgage, or give away any property held in trust. You also have the ability to return ownership of the trust property to yourself, add property to the trust, change your trust beneficiaries, or revoke the trust entirely.
If you have questions regarding wills, or any other estate planning needs, please contact one of our Orange County estate planning lawyers at the Schomer Law Group for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.