By its very nature, estate planning is a highly personal undertaking. The details regarding the division of your estate assets, for example, are not something you likely share with anyone outside your immediate family. You may not even want your immediate family members to know how your estate assets are distributed after you are gone. If you use a Last Will and Testament as your primary estate planning vehicle, however, you won’t be able to keep the terms of that Will private after your death. Instead, the Indianapolis trust attorneys at Frank & Kraft explain how using a trust can help keep your estate planning details private.
Your Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is probably the first document you created when you started your estate plan. A Will is a legal document that communicates your final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents. You can distribute your entire estate using a Will and may make both specific and general gifts in your Will. Your Will is also where you will appoint someone to be the Executor of your estate. Your Executor plays a vital role in the probate of your estate after your death. Finally, a Will provides you with the only official opportunity you will have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children in the event one is ever needed after you are gone. As your estate plan grows, you may add additional documents to your plan; however, your Will may continue to serve an important purpose within your plan. One problem with relying entirely on a Will to distribute your estate assets, however, is that it cannot keep the details of your plan private.
Probating Your Will
When you die, your estate must go through the legal process known as probate. The individual you appointed as the Executor of your estate will be responsible for overseeing the probate of your estate. Typically, your Executor will initiate the probate process by submitting an original copy of your Will along with a certified death certificate to the appropriate court. The terms of that Will are then used to determine how your estate assets are distributed. If you want those terms to remain private, this is where you run into a problem because once your Will is submitted to the court for probate, it becomes public record. Knowing that, you may wish to consider using a trust as your primary estate planning vehicle for the distribution of your assets.
How Does a Trust Keep Details Private?
All your assets must be categorized by your Executor as probate or non-probate assets. The reason assets must be categorized is that not all assets are required to go through the probate process. Some assets are considered non-probate assets and bypass the probate process altogether. Assets held by a trust at the time of your death, for example, do not go through probate and may be distributed to the intended beneficiaries very shortly after the death of the Settlor. Along with being available to your loved ones much sooner, another major benefit of using a trust is that the trust agreement you create is not required to be submitted to the court. Consequently, the terms of that agreement, including the details regarding the distribution of your assets, remain private. Relying on a trust to distribute your estate assets offers additional benefits as well, including planning for the possibility of incapacity and protecting the inheritance of a minor child who cannot inherit directly from your estate. If privacy is important to you, a trust may be the best option for distributing your estate assets.
Contact Indianapolis Trust Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about how a trust can help you keep your estate planning details private, contact the experienced Indianapolis trust attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.