Can I keep my will secret?

I want to leave property to someone but I don't want everyone to know. Should I put it in my will? 

When  Charles Kuralt died in 1997, his family learned the shocking news he had a secret family and a double life. Not only had Charles Kuralt been supporting this secret family for years, but, on his deathbed, he wanted to leave his mistress property in Montana. The fallout from this incident and the resulting court fight highlighted the fact a will is not secret.

If you want to leave property to someone but don't want everyone to know, here are two important facts about wills.

  1. A will is a public document. When you die, anyone in possession of your will must file it at the courthouse. If that person doesn't file the will, the court can compel him or her to produce it or risk contempt of court.
  2. A will is a historical document.

Once filed, a will is kept in perpetuity. Those of us who are interested in genealogy know, a will is not only a public document, but a historical record as well. Anyone can access probate records and read wills from hundreds of years ago. Hopefully you don't have a secret life like Charles Kuralt, but if you do, don't put it in your will!  

What can you do to keep your estate plan private? Unlike wills, trusts are private and generally don't have to be filed at the courthouse. This is why many celebrities use trusts to leave money to their  loved ones. If privacy is a concern for you, consult with an estate planning attorney about whether a trust is right for you.

For more info about wills, trusts, and other estate planning questions, call us at 704.887.5242 or fill out the form below to schedule a private consultation in our Ballantyne office. 


DISCLAIMER: This blog contains general educational information only. The information in this post does not constitute legal advice  to you and reading the information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Nancy Roberts or the Law Office of Nancy L Roberts, PLLC. You should not rely on this information as legal advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek legal advice from an attorney you hire, who advises you based on your specific facts, circumstances, situation, and the appropriate governing law.

Nancy Roberts
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