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Is a Living Trust Public?

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Living trusts offer more privacy than wills do.

One of the benefits of using a living trust, rather than a will, is that it provides your family with more privacy.

How Wills Become Public

You can keep all your estate planning documentation private as long as you’re still living. After you create your will, for instance, you can and need to keep it in a safe location (such as a fireproof safe, safety deposit box); you are not required to file it with your local court or other government agency.

Following a death, nevertheless, most states require that the person that has possession of the deceased individual’s will must swiftly file it with their local probate court. This applies even when there is not going to be any legal proceedings through probate court. The individual that has the will but purposely declines to file it most likely is going to be fined by the court.

After a will gets filed, it becomes a matter of public record, open to anybody that wants to view it. Most people aren’t interested in a lot of ordinary people’s wills, obviously, but a family member or prying acquaintance might be, and some people simply don’t like the notion that anybody could see how they decide to leave their worldly possessions.

Why Trusts Stay Private

A living trust is never required to be filed with a court, either prior to or following your passing. The probate court is not involved in overseeing your trustee, the individual you appoint in your trust document to manage the allocation of your trust assets. The trustee merely follows the instructions you declared in your trust document, without getting consent or permission from the court.

What You Cannot Keep Private

From time to time, details of how you planned to leave your property cannot be kept completely private—whether you use a will or a living trust to manage your affairs.

Conditions of the trust, if state law requires disclosure to family members.

Many states mandate that if you establish a living trust, the trustee must provide beneficiaries a copy upon request after your passing. In some states, beneficiaries can only access the part of the trust relevant to them. In others, they can review the entire document, allowing one beneficiary to see the inheritance details of others. Additionally, certain close family members, often those who would inherit without a will based on state law, may need to be notified by the trustee after your passing, providing them with a copy upon request.

Ownership of real estate.

Real estate ownership is public information. You can find property owners and details, like taxes, at the local land records. After inheritance, it becomes part of the public record.

Lawsuits.

If a dissatisfied family member sues your estate after you establish a living trust, the trust document may become public. Such disputes are rare, usually occurring when heirs expect an inheritance. Unless you anticipate strong opposition to your estate plan, you likely won’t face a court battle after your passing.

 
Sources
  1. Mary Randolph, J. D. (2020, August 17). Is a living trust public? www.nolo.com. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/is-living-trust-public.html

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