With the end of the year fast approaching, now is the time to fine tune your estate plan. One area of planning that many people overlook is ensuring that their final wishes remain private.
Will Your Final Wishes Become a Public Court Record?
- Planning for what happens if you become mentally incapacitated or die is an extremely personal matter. It deals with all of the intimate details of your life.
- Because of attorney-client privilege, no one can see your estate planning documents unless you give them permission. But this is only true while you are living. After you die and your will is filed for probate, it becomes a public court record that anyone can read (recent celebrity examples include actors James Gandolfini and Philip Seymour Hoffman).
- What happens if you don’t have any estate plan at all? NFL quarterback Steve McNair’s public probate court proceedings are a prime example of how the public can learn the dirty little secrets about a deceased person – two illegitimate children and possibly others, multiple girlfriends – and all about the deceased person’s property and its value – cash, investments, businesses, and multiple homes valued near $20 million. If you don’t have a personalized estate plan, your family could be stuck with the state’s default plan. That is why I strongly advise you to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney now to ensure that it doesn’t happen to your family.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Estate Plan Private?
- If privacy and discretion are important to you, make sure your estate planning attorney is aware of it, so that these goals can be incorporated into your estate plan.