We’ve recently blogged about how representatives of the Joe Paterno estate successfully convinced a Pennsylvania probate court to seal the late coach’s will. Though the estate eventually released the will on its own later on, the sealing of the will is highly unusual as almost all probate documents are part of the public record and open to inspection. For anyone interested in keeping the details of your estate private, one of the most effective ways to do this is to create a living trust. Let’s take a look at what a living trust is and why it is useful for those concerned about privacy.
Living Trusts and the Court
When you create a living trust you choose specific property that the trust will own. Once the property is transferred to the trust, the trustee will manage the property on behalf of the beneficiaries. As the person who creates the trust, known as a trustor or settlor, you decide who serves as trustee as well as who becomes the beneficiary. None of this requires court involvement. Further, after you die and it comes time to redistribute your property, the property you transfer to the trust will not become part of your probate estate because the trust owns it, not you.
Living Trust Limitations
Though living trusts are an effective way to keep property concerns private, they are not a substitute for all estate planning concerns. For example, if you want to name a guardian for your children you must do so by creating a last will and testament which must then be approved by the court.
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