Does It Matter That Your Will is a Public Document?

One of the advantages of having your Minnesota assets distributed by a Revocable Living Trust, rather than through your Will, is that Revocable Living Trust documents can avoid public disclosure whereas Wills admitted into Probate Court become a public document. 

Particularly if there’s the potential for a family fight over assets, a Revocable Living Trust is best because the would-be adversary may be left in the dark as to whether you left enough assets to be worth a court fight.

If you are famous, the news media may be interested in the contents of your Will. For example, you can download copies of the Wills of singer Michael Jackson and wealthy hotelier Leona Helmsley from the Internet. You can read Helmsley’s Will to learn that she left her pet Maltese dog $12 million while cutting certain relatives out of her estate.

If you aren’t famous and don’t expect family fights over your estate, the public nature of your Will may or may not matter to you. After all, your Will doesn’t become public until you’re dead and your Will is admitted into Probate Court.

Your Will may show up in land abstracts, in addition to Probate Court.

Recently, while researching the history of the farm on which I grew up, I benefited from the ability to find the Wills of past owners copied right onto the land abstract.

In instances where these previous landowners died without a Will, the land abstract contained a listing of all the deceased heirs, where they lived, and how the family eventually dealt with dividing the acres among multiple heirs. (Typically, the land was sold.) I found this information interesting for my research on the farm’s history and on the people that lived in the community decades ago. But such information felt intrusive when the entries involved my parents’ deaths!

When real property in Minnesota is owned by a Trust, and is transferred by the trustee to someone, the Trust document is sometimes recorded along with the deed. But the Trust document can remain private if a document called a “Certificate of Trust” is instead recorded with the deed.

The Certificate of Trust merely states the name and date of the Trust, the name of the trustee, and the name of the person who established the Trust.

Depending on your privacy desires, you may prefer a Revocable Living Trust.

©2013 Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This Blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, please seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in the state where you live. Wittenburg Law does not expressly or implicitly warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the Blog’s content. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading this Blog. If you are interested in Wittenburg Law’s representation of you, you must contact Wittenburg Law for a determination of whether your matter is one for which Wittenburg Law is willing and able to accept representation of you.

 Bonnie Wittenburg

Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC

601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050

Minnetonka, MN 55305

952-649-9771

bonnie@bwittenburglaw.com

www.bwittenburglaw.com