Some people come to an estate planning attorney without really knowing anything at all about probate or the estate planning process. For many of these people it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that if you create a will, that document will eventually become part of the public record. Anyone who wishes to read the will can do so simply by going to the courthouse where it was filed.
The prospect that a perfect stranger could read your last will and testament doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. For this reason, many people choose to make a living trust and combine it with what is known as a “pour over” will. This strategy is one of the best ways to preserve your personal privacy. Let’s look at why.
Unlike the will, a living trust does not have to be approved by a probate court judge. When you make your trust you get to determine how the trust operates and who will inherit trust property after you die. There is no need to make a will that controls trust property because, technically, you no longer own the property. Because it is owned by the trust, and the trust can keep operating after you die, your wishes will remain private.
There are some choices that you can only make with a last will and testament, such as nominating a guardian or an executor. If you make a living trust your will often directs that any property you left out of the trust will be transferred, or poured over, to the trust upon your death. It will then be up to the trust to determine who inherits the property, thus keeping your inheritance choices private.