In case the name Davy Jones means nothing to you, he was the frontman for the famous 60s music group known as “The Monkees”. Unfortunately for fans and the music world as a whole, Jones dies earlier this year of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 66 years old. Jones left behind a wife who was half his age as well as four grown children. Not long after Jones’s death, a petition was filed with the probate court asking for the records to be sealed.
In the normal course of events, records filed with a probate court are considered public record. In other words, if you want to see what someone put in their Last Will and Testament it is usually as easy as filling out a public records request. In Jones’s case, his oldest daughter, and representative of the estate, successfully argued that the court should deny public access to his “planning documents and financial affairs as public opinion could have a material effect on his copyrights, royalties and ongoing goodwill.” The court then ordered that the records be sealed.
Jones could have created an estate plan that would have been all but sealed without the need to petition the court by using various estate planning tools. Trusts, for example, are not typically required to become part of the probate process and therefore never become public record to begin with. If you would prefer that your estate be kept private, talk to your estate planning attorney about how to accomplish this.