Keeping Your Life and Assets Private

Prince’s lack of estate planning in life has made quite a mess for his potential heirs as we have covered in the past. The slow moving probate proceedings are also preventing his estate from fully monetizing his image and collecting potential revenue. This week though the Minnesota probate judge gave the go ahead for the administrator of Prince’s estate to sell six of the late artist’s properties. This order does nothing to touch the much more valuable part of Prince’s estate such as his likeness, music catalogue, personal home or recording studio.

Your Life Out In The Open

But how exactly do we know the extensive real estate listings and assets held by Prince? That is because court proceedings are public knowledge and any court filings in a probate court are public records. That means that when you pass, if you have to go through probate chances are any assets you have at the time of your death will be catalogued and listed. Probate records include wills, estate inventories, letters of administration and other documents relating to the administration and settlement of deceased persons’ estates. These records also contain information on the property of decedents, the identity and relationships of heirs, and legal actions taken to prove wills and settle estates.

While there is a chance that you do not care whether or not what you own is public knowledge, there are many reasons as to why you would want to keep this knowledge secret.  Since the list of your assets will be public knowledge, your heirs may be approached by scammers or targeted by criminals, especially if your estate includes rare and valuable items like antiques and collectibles.

Going through probate also tends to invite will contests from disgruntled family members who may feel that they are deserving to some portion of the assets in the estate. The larger the estate, the more likely someone is to contest it and they can easily gain that knowledge once the assets of the estate have been catalogued.

People who have ownership or stakes in businesses may also want to keep their holdings in these companies private. Competitors and those seeking to gain control of a company see this as valuable information and may use this now public knowledge to the detriment of your business.

Alternatives To Probate Are Available

There are many alternatives available for avoiding probate. The easiest and most common is to use as many probate alternatives as possible and other testamentary devices like a revocable trust. Having your investments, accounts and other assets with titles pass through beneficiary designations prevents them from going through probate. A revocable trust is a private document and is not entered into probate. Therefore its terms are kept out of the public record. Once your assets are in a trust they can be passed through the terms of the trust rather than through your will.

See Related Posts:

The Rapidly Disappearing Inheritance

Estate Plan Or Wealth Transfer Plan?

What Happens If My Beneficiary Turns Down My Bequest?

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