Did you know that if you don’t have a living trust in place that a complete inventory of your assets will be available for all to see?  That’s right…even if you have a will all of this information is a matter of public record. 

Even if you can get past the feeling of violation that a lot of people feel when thinking about all of their financial information being available to anyone and everyone, you should also consider that it might be a safety issue.  There are a lot of unscrupulous people who prey on widows and other beneficiaries and try to separate them from their inheritance.

The lack of privacy is understandable if you know the true purpose of Orange County probate.  One of the primary purposes of probate is to make sure the creditors of the deceased person have an easy way to collect any debts they are owed from the deceased person’s estate.  In order to make this very easy for them, the probate process must be open and public.

Another thing to think about is that this information is also available to the creditors of the beneficiaries of the estate.  If a creditor of one of your beneficiaries knows that he or she may be inheriting assets, they may make a claim against them which might result in your beneficiary never receiving the inheritance you wanted to leave them.

I am in no way advocating that your debts go unpaid.  In fact, you should instruct your executor to pay your debts.  But, wouldn’t you rather direct how this process goes rather than leaving it to the courts?

One way to stop the violation of privacy and loss of control of your estate is to create a living trust.

A living trust is a private document and unlike a will, does not become a matter of public record because it does not have to be filed in probate court.  You can name beneficiaries and provide gifts while still attaining privacy since only the trustees and those involved in trust administration will know the contents of a living trust.  This means that no creditor of yours or your beneficiaries, no disgruntled relative, no scam artist, and no nosey neighbor will ever know the details of your financial history.

So, if privacy is important to you, consider talking to an experience estate planning attorney about a living trust to try to avoid Orange County probate.