J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Privacy concerns a good reason to turn to trust administration

Curiosity is a common attribute for people from all walks of life. Curiosity can unlock enormous potential amongst human beings and it can lead people to find ingenious solutions to complex problems. On the other hand, when it comes to curiosity about each other, people can cross the line and become downright nosy and insensitive. This is perhaps amongst the many reasons why some people choose to lead very private lives.

After a person dies, his or her life can be subject to the scrutiny of the public eye. This is true for even the most private people because when someone dies, his or her last will and testament must be promptly filed with a court. Once filed in court, the will becomes public record and anyone can see exactly how the person chose to divide the estate amongst living heirs.

Recently, the website Ancestry.com published the wills and probate records of more than 100 million people. The project took the company about three years to complete and it details the testamentary documents for a wide range of people. Some of the records are older than the United States itself, and some cover historically prominent people including Paul Revere, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Daniel Webster.

Although these records were always open to the public, they were held in local courthouses and other locations, and therefore not so easily accessible. Today, however, through just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, anyone can see that Paul Revere left only a dollar to one of his grandchildren, while each of the others got $500.

For some people in the Polk County area, this is exactly the kind of thing that they shudder to think about when it comes to their own lives. These people, who value their own privacy, probably prefer not to publish any details of their lives and relationships with family members, not even through their wills. For people who feel this way, a trust can be a helpful instrument for distribution of assets after they pass away.

Trusts are not subject to the public eye because they do not pass through probate court. The trustee simply distributes assets to the beneficiaries based on the instructions in the trust agreement. An attorney who is experienced in trust administration may be able to help people with all facets of this area of law.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Huge trove of U.S. wills put online," Mark Pratt, Sept. 13, 2015

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