“How Do I Keep My Private Affairs Private?” by Attorney Victor A. Lembo (Audio)
If you want to keep estate affairs private, the attorneys of Sinclair Prosser Gasior can identify legal tools to use and implement different strategies to transfer assets outside of probate. Probate attorneys represent executors of an estate, heirs or beneficiaries, and individuals who attempt to contest a will during the probate process. During the probate process, many people are frustrated to discover that since the process is supervised by the court, their personal family affairs become court record, and thus, become public. In most cases, information about assets and who stands to inherit can become known to anyone who sees court records associated with probate proceedings. Many people do not like this intrusion into their private affairs.
Unfortunately, in circumstances where a decedent has died intestate or has left a will, there is typically no option but for assets to pass through probate. This means that there is usually no way, after a death, to keep family and financial affairs completely private.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior has helped many clients to make the probate process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, although probate is time consuming and can be costly. However, there are other options that include:
- Creating a trust: If you create a trust and fund it, the assets held within the trust do not have to be transferred through probate. Instead, the trust administration process can be used to facilitate the transfer of wealth. As long as problems do not arise and none of your heirs or beneficiaries wish to go to court to claim the trust administrator breached their fiduciary duty, you should be able to keep the wealth transfer private.
- Using beneficiary designations: Some accounts and certain other assets may allow you to name a person who will inherit automatically upon your death. However, using a trust to ensure the beneficiary will receive the funds is typically a better route.
- Using joint ownership: If property that you wish to pass on is co-owned with someone who has rights of survivorship, then that property will not have to pass through probate. However, there could be negative implications by adding someone to an asset, and utilizing a trust often provides more flexibility and options.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior can identify different techniques that you could use in order to pass assets outside of the probate process and to help minimize personal and financial information from becoming a part of the court record.
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