Are Wills Public Information? Understanding the Accessibility of Your Estate Plan
As we go through life, we work hard to accumulate assets, build wealth, and provide for our loved ones. However, what happens to those assets after we’re gone is something that few of us want to contemplate. Though it may be uncomfortable, estate planning is an essential task that each one of us must face. But are you aware that your will is public information?
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets will be distributed after your death. It’s a document that ensures your final wishes are carried out, and your estate is distributed to your heirs according to your wishes.
How Does Probate Work?
Probate is the legal process by which a will is authenticated, and the decedent’s assets are distributed. During the probate process, a judge reviews the will, and if it’s deemed valid, oversees the distribution of the estate.
Are Wills Public Information?
In most states, wills are considered public information, meaning that they’re available to the general public. This information includes the decedent’s name, the date of death, and the contents of the will. While this might not seem like a big deal to some, it’s essential to consider the potential consequences of your will being available to anyone who wants to see it.
Why Should You Care?
The contents of your will are personal and private, and you may not want them to be easily accessible to the general public. If your will is public, it could be used by scammers to target your heirs, which could result in the loss of assets or identity theft. Additionally, if your will includes sensitive information like the names of your beneficiaries, it could be used to cause family conflict or discord.
How Can You Protect Your Privacy?
If you’re concerned about the accessibility of your will, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy. One option is to create a trust instead of a will. Trusts are private documents that are not part of the public record. Another option is to create a pour-over will, which transfers the assets in your estate to a trust upon your death.
The accessibility of a person’s will is a topic that many people may not think about. However, it’s crucial to consider the potential consequences of public accessibility and take steps to protect your privacy. Whether you create a trust, pour-over will, or take another approach, it’s essential to make sure that your final wishes are carried out while also safeguarding your assets and your family’s privacy.