Did you know that well known news anchor Peter Jennings was worth $50 million when he died and that his fourth wife received half of his estate pursuant to a prenuptial agreement? Do you want to know how much Whitney Houston as worth when she died or who she gave her money to? If you are curious, you can find out soon when her Last Will and Testament is made public. If you don’t like the thought of your estate details being made public when you die, you may want to consider adding an estate to your estate plan.
Although there are many reasons why Houston and Jennings should have created a more comprehensive estate plan than simply relying on a Will, the very public nature of using nothing more than a Will is one of them. People often do not realize that probate documents are public record, meaning that anything filed pursuant to the probate of an estate can be accessed by any member of the public just by asking. In other words, your Last Will and Testament will be public record.
One simple way to avoid the entire world knowing how much you were worth when you died or who you left your assets to when you died is to include a trust in your estate plan. Aside from the many other benefits to a trust, one benefit is that trusts do not go through probate, meaning that the contents of a trust agreement are not made public. Talk to your estate planning attorney if you prefer to keep the details of your estate private.