How Estate Planning Can Provide You Privacy
Ask an attorney what the advantages of a trust are and he or she will inevitably include in that list “privacy”. But how can a trust provide privacy? There are two major ways that a trust provides additional privacy.
Let me be the first to introduce you to a government agency known as the County Assessor. Each county has an office in charge of collecting information about property values so that the state can be sure you are paying enough property taxes. In most counties and states, this office is called the County Assessor. Whether you know it or not, there is an account with this office for each and every piece of real property you own. And, depending on how you took title to that property, your name is attached to that account.
No big deal, right? I mean, the County needs to be able to keep track of changing property values to properly assess property taxes, right? Maybe so, but the problem is that these accounts are public record. Anyone who has access to the internet can google their County Assessors website and search your name on the property records. This means that in a few mouse clicks, anyone, including someone with bad intentions can find out where you live.
This can pose problems to people in the public light. Even teachers could be subjected to nasty high schoolers tracking down their addresses. But it’s a potential issue for all of us. Companies can easily search the County Assessor records and add your name and address to their mass marketing databases.
Trusts can help ameliorate this concern. Funding a trust is the act of moving assets into the trust. Part of this process includes deeding your home into your trust. This means that the County Assessor would show your trust as the owner. If your trust is named something other than your last name, people will not be able to find out where you live.
This means that for people who are concerned with their privacy, naming their trust something other than your personal name can provide a layer of privacy.
What was Amy Winehouse’s net worth when she passed away? Did her ex-husband receive anything upon her passing? These questions are surprisingly easy to answer. A simple court record search would show that she died with about $4.66 million and her ex-husband did not receive anything from her estate. Are you comfortable with the idea of people being able to find this information out about you?
Another great benefit that a trust provides is the avoidance of probate. Most people know that probate can be time consuming and expensive. However, probate is also incredibly public. In a probate proceeding, the court needs to determine the total net worth of the person who has deceased. Often times, these accountings will be included in the court records. Also, nominations of guardians for your children will be public knowledge. This can lead to unfortunate attempts to take advantage of your children during an extremely difficult time period.
Again, the added privacy of a trust helps lessen these concerns. A trust does not have to be put in a court record. In fact, most people with trusts never need the court to get involved. Assets and nominations will not become public knowledge. This is a major selling point for public figures, but again, this added privacy is valuable to all of us.
Are you interested to see how your privacy can be enhanced by a trust? Call us at (866)708-2335 to speak with one of our attorneys to see how you can benefit from proper estate planning.