After you create your estate plan you may chose to share the details with loved ones – or you may prefer to keep those details private. If you want your estate plan details to remain private, you need to plan accordingly. Toward that end, a Los Angeles estate planning attorney at Schomer Law Group, APC explains how to ensure that the details of your estate plan remain private.
Gifts Made Using a Last Will and Testament Will Not Be Kept Private
Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to communicate your final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents. Using your Will you can make specific and/or general gifts. For example, you might make a specific gift of your house to your adult son, or you might make a general gift of half of your entire estate to your adult daughter. Your Will is also where you will appoint someone to be the Executor of your estate. Your Executor plays a vital role in the probate of your estate after your death. Finally, a Will provides you with the only official opportunity you will have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children in the event one is ever needed after you are gone.
Following your death, your estate will likely need to go through the legal process referred to as “probate.” To initiate the probate of your estate your Executor must submit an original copy of your Will along with a certified death certificate. The terms of your Will are ultimately used to determine how any remaining estate assets (after the payment of debts and taxes) are distributed at the end of the probate process. For many people, one of the major drawbacks to using a Last Will and Testament to distribute assets is the lack of privacy. Once your Will is submitted to the court for probate, it becomes public record, meaning anyone can view the details of your Will. If you would prefer to keep the details of the gifts you made private, you might wish to consider using a trust as your primary tool for distributing your estate.
Keeping Your Estate Plan Details Private by Using a Trust
Assets you own at the time of your death are categorized as probate or non-probate assets because not all assets are required to go through the probate process. Among the assets that are non-probate assets, and therefore bypass the probate of your estate, are assets held by a trust. Because trust assets are non-probate assets, the trust agreement you create is not required to be submitted to the court. Consequently, the terms of that agreement, including the details regarding the distribution of your assets, remain private. Relying on a trust to distribute your estate assets offers additional benefits as well, including planning for the possibility of incapacity and protecting the inheritance of a minor child who cannot inherit directly from your estate. Choosing to use a trust to distribute your estate assets, however, does not mean you no longer need a Will. At a bare minimum you should retain a Pour Over Will as part of your estate plan to ensure that any assets inadvertently left out of the trust make it into the trust at the time of your death.
Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about keeping your estate plan details private, contact an experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorney at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.