Wills and Privacy: Who Can See Your Last Will and Testament?

Many people want their final days and plans to remain private, and this want includes the desire to control who learns about their estate plans. However, in Texas, most probate cases are public matters and appear on public records.Essentially, anyone who’s interested in your estate plans can see them.

This is appalling for people who wish for their estate plans to remain private. It’s alarming for even those who aren’t concerned with privacy; would you want everyone to see your plans? Here’s who can see your will and some possible ways to increase the process’s privacy.

Who Can See Your Will?

Your will is the document that lays out the terms of your estate plans. It contains information such as what a beneficiary’s rights are and who receives how much of your property. The recipients of the property are known as heirs, and they can receive either property or the proceeds from its sale.

The personal representative is responsible for distributing (and possibly selling) your property, so they must see your will. Typically, this isn’t a cause for concern for the trustor, as they know this is necessary and choose accordingly. However, once the will is probated, anyone can see it. Additionally, everyone can read the documents in the probate record (unless sealed by court order), such as an inventory of the decedent’s assets.

Are There Ways to Increase Your Will’s Privacy?

If you do go through the probate process, there is a way to prevent your inventory from becoming public knowledge. They can file an affidavit in lieu of inventory, asserting that the beneficiaries have copies of the inventory and all debts are paid.

If you’re looking for more wholescale privacy, you can use trusts. Essentially, you can transfer your property to a trust and assign a trustee (the person that manages the trust’s assets). Instruct the trustee to sell the property according to a predetermined agreement. They can then divvy up the proceeds to the beneficiaries. This bypasses the probate process, so your records don’t become public.

However, handling trusts can be a difficult and complex process. For instance, there’s a significant amount of record-keeping involved, and creditors can also create issues. It’s best to consult a trust attorney before executing a trust agreement.

If you’re looking for an attorney to help you with your estate planning, contact us at Mike Massey Law. We provide trust, probate, and estate planning attorneys in Travis, Harris County, Houston, and Austin.

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Mike Massey JD, MBA, MPA just might be the 195th most interesting person in Texas. He has 4 college degrees and he's working on a 5th:  BBS Accounting; MPA Master's in Professional Accounting; JD Law Degree; MBA Master's in Business Administration; BBS in Biblical Studies (in progress).

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