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More Privacy Achieved with a Living Trust

By Howard C. Stross
October 29, 2014

One of the advantages of using a living trust, instead of a will, is that it gives your family more privacy. After your death, Florida law requires that your last will and testament be filed with the local clerk of court. Once a will has been filed, it is a matter of public record and anyone can look it up. This is how celebrities’ wills show up in the news.

On the other hand, a living trust offers more privacy because it does not automatically need to be filed with the court. The trustee follows the instructions in the trust document without supervision from the probate court.

Joan Rivers Had More Privacy Than Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall passed away this year with a will-based estate plan. Her will is available to anyone in the general public who wants to read the court record. Anyone can find out the names of her beneficiaries and information regarding who gets what assets.

Joan Rivers also passed away this year but she had a trust-based estate plan. Her beneficiaries have more privacy because her estate is unknown to the public. Like Florida, New York also provides that a living trust does not automatically become part of public record.

Privacy Limitations

Even with a trust, some things cannot be kept entirely private.

From Your Financial Institutions. As you transfer accounts into your name as trustee, financial institutions will ask to see a copy of your trust. You may give them a Certificate of Trust with only the name and powers provisions but you do have to provide them with some documentation.

From Your Beneficiaries. After your death, the trustee must give a copy of your living trust to the beneficiaries who inherit trust property if they request it.

If there is Real Estate Owned by the Trust. Anyone can look up a parcel of real estate and find out who owns it. So if real estate is transferred to the trust, the name of the trust is public record. In addition, a Certificate of Trust will also be a matter of public record when the property is later transferred or sold.

If there is a Lawsuit. If an unhappy beneficiary sues over the trust, the living trust will became part of the public record as part of the lawsuit.

This article is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Privacy is one factor people consider when they compare using a trust or a will. If achieving privacy is important to you, call us at 813-852-6500 to schedule a free consultation with an estate planning attorney.

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