The pain of losing a loved one multiplies when arguments arise about who inherits what,…
Most people assume that after they die their private affairs will remain private. However, if a probate is necessary to administer your estate, the personal details of your life at the time of your death become part of an easily accessible public record. For example, in Oklahoma, a nosy neighbor or acquaintance can simply search your name in www.oscn.net and read the entire court file, which typically includes a detailed list of your family members, your assets, and even your debts. If there is a dispute, the details of that become public too.
It’s Not Just Snoopy Sally That Has Access…
After a death, some states require that whoever has possession of the deceased person’s will must file it with the probate court – even if there will not be any probate court proceedings. While Snoopy Sally may just have a morbid curiosity, others with a more vested interest also can complicate things for your surviving family and heirs.
- Financial predators. While today’s digital world is convenient, it’s also dangerous. Financial predators find ways to access information online, often harvesting personal data from public records. Probate can take months to administer so months can elapse before you (or the court) realize that your beneficiaries have been swindled.
- Will challengers. If a probate is necessary, any interested party – whether they are entitled to assets or not – must receive notice of the court proceeding. Notice is also published in the newspaper. If a jilted family member or aggressive creditor is litigious, this notice is essentially an invitation to contest the will or stake a claim in an estate where there is no will. A will contest will add significant time and cost to the probate process.
Avoid the “Snoopy Sally” Factor with A Trust
Trusts are never filed with a court, either before or after your death. Probate courts are not involved in supervising your trust administration. You can avoid busybodies and other predators by creating – and then properly funding – a revocable living trust. While some state laws require a total, or partial, disclosure of the trust to beneficiaries, it is still the best way to keep your legal affairs private. Did you hear that, Sally?
Let us help you create an estate plan designed to keep your family and financial affairs private and avoid probate. If a loved one died before they had a chance to plan ahead, we are also here to help you navigate the complicated probate process. Contact Littleton Legal at (918) 608-1836.