Much has been written about the inherent cost and delay incurred in probating a will. These factors can vary widely, depending on the size of the estate, whether your will is challenged, as well as the complexity of the will. Different types of property, the number of beneficiaries, and creditors can all impact the length an estate is “open,” as well as the cost of probating a will.
While these are all material concerns, there is one concern, privacy, that typically receives little attention. Although there is no national database of wills that can be searched online, individuals who have an interest in a will, whether as a beneficiary, relative or curiosity seeker, can go to the Surrogates Court in the county in which the will may have been filed, and request a look at the will.
If you never drafted a will, the State has a will already drafted for you in the form of succession laws or intestacy. This is also a public record, and any interested party can obtain a copy of the file from Surrogates Court. These facts may come as a surprise to people who zealously guard their privacy.
If you are concerned about preserving your privacy, concealing whom you wish your assets to go to in the event of your demise, or the size of your estate, then you will want to avoid probate court to the extent possible. There are a variety of tools available to preserve your privacy, some requiring the services of an attorney, others that you can accomplish with the assistance of a financial advisor.
For more information on how we can help you to preserve your privacy, click here to schedule a conversation with one of our advisors.