We recently blogged about how Joe Paterno’s estate asked a court to seal the late football coach’s will and how the family subsequently released it. This has led some to wonder if there is anything you can do to keep your estate details private. While you cannot normally keep your will private, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other methods available that provide much more privacy. One of the best of these is to create a living trust, sometimes known as a revocable trust or an inter vivos trust.
All states have probate courts that are responsible for administering how a deceased person’s property is distributed. However, probate only governs specific types of property and only property that the deceased person owns by his or herself. If the person has a will, the court will determine if the will is valid and will make it available to the public. However, if the deceased person had created a living trust, the trust does not have to go before the probate court.
When you create a living trust you create what is essentially you alter ego that can own property. Once you create the trust you can then transfer your property to it, making the trust the legal owner of the property. Therefore, when it comes time to distribute your property after you die, you do not legally own the property and the probate court will not have to administer it.