Is a Living Trust Considered a Public Document?

By Beverly Bird

Living trusts have a certain mystique – a reputation for being an estate-planning tool for the wealthy. In fact, these trusts are simply legal entities into which you transfer ownership of your property during your lifetime. If you form a revocable living trust, you retain control over the assets and can prevent the details of your finances and assets from becoming public knowledge after your death.

Probate Avoidance

One of the greatest incentives for forming and funding a trust is that your assets do not require probate to pass to your beneficiaries. Your trust technically owns them, so your successor trustee can pass them to others at your death without involving the court. When you distribute property by will, the will must be filed with the court and becomes a matter of public record. But it's not necessary to file trust formation documents, either before or after your death.

Who Can See the Documents

Although they're not public record, your trust's formation documents aren't totally confidential. In most states, your trustee must send notice to all your beneficiaries when you die, letting them know that they can request a copy. In some states, such as California, your trustee must also notify your heirs at law and offer them the same right. These are people who would have inherited by operation of law if you had not left a will and made no other estate plan provisions.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
When Are Wills Made Public?
 

References

Related articles

Consumer's Guide to Living Trusts & Wills in Arizona

A will is a set of instructions that tell a probate court how to distribute your assets between the time you die and the time probate is closed — anywhere from several months to several years later. A living trust, by contrast, is administered by your trustee and takes effect while you are still alive. You may authorize your trustee to distribute trust assets all at once or over a long period of time.

How to Sign Documents As a Successor Trustee of a Living Trust

A living trust is a common document in estate planning that provides for an orderly transfer of property without having to go through the time and expense of probate court. One important aspect of the living trust is naming a successor trustee – the person who will be responsible for transferring the trust assets when the person who made the trust dies. If you are named as a successor trustee, you must perform the task of taking title to the trust assets and ensuring that the property is properly distributed to the trust beneficiaries. This task requires knowing how to sign trust-related documents.

How to Create a Revocable Trust

A revocable living trust allows you to provide for the distribution of your property after your death. When you set up a trust, you help your heirs and family avoid the probate courts, which must review and authorize any will. “Revocable” means that you can change the trust at any time, or cancel it altogether. Creating a trust is a straightforward matter of preparing and signing a document, which contains certain provisions and conforms to the law.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Are Living Trusts Exempt From Lawsuits?

Trusts can provide many advantages for asset protection, as well as easing the transfer of property from one generation ...

Do Trusts Need to Be Notarized?

Whether a trust document needs to be notarized depends on its purpose and state law, but notarization is a requirement ...

How to Dissolve a Living Trust

A living trust permits you to have control over the distribution of your assets after your death while you are still ...

How to Obtain a Copy of a Living Trust in California

A living trust is a means of transferring property to an individual or group of people. It is created by a person ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED