After a lifetime of hard work, ensuring the distribution of your estate among friends and family per your wishes is one of the greatest benefits of estate planning. By nature, will are very sensitive documents, and keeping them private during your lifetime is fairly simple to do. A copy left with your attorney, or in a safe deposit box, will stay away from prying eyes.
After a formal reading, can a will remain private?
Reading a will causes it to become a public record of the court. While you can keep the details of your will private during your lifetime, once it becomes a public court record anyone can go to the courthouse and ask for a copy. In Los Angeles County, California probate records are available to download online.
Wills do not remain private, and in fact, will become available to anyone who cares to read it.
Is there a way to keep my final wishes private forever?
Trust-based estates do not go through probate and are not entered into the public record, and may be the best way to retain your privacy forever.
For instance, a revocable living trust allows you to manage your full estate without restriction. Should you become unable to manage the estate while you are alive, or if you pass away, your estate becomes the responsibility of your trustee. He or she will distribute your estate per your wishes, without the involvement of the court.
If you have concerns about your wishes becoming public knowledge after you are gone, a revocable living trust may help you keep your family matters and financial details private forever.