Are Estate Planning Documents Public Record? A comprehensive estate plan typically includes a number of documents that contain highly personal and confidential information. Your estate planning documents may include decisions and choices that you wish to keep private. Given the ease with which information can be gathered and disseminated in the current electronic age, concerns about the privacy of your estate documents are certainly understandable. State laws can vary to some degree with regard to how estate documents are handled, and there are always exceptions to general rules; however, the following addresses the privacy issue as it relates to the most commonly used estate planning documents. Last Will and Testament: An estate plan starts with a Last Will and Testament. In some cases, it also ends with one. Whether your Will is just the foundation of your estate plan, or is the sum total of your plan, it likely contains some very personal information. During your lifetime, your Will remains private unless you choose to share it with someone. Once you die, however, your Will needs to be filed with the court where your estate is being probated and becomes public record. Trusts: The public status of a trust depends on which type of trust was created. If you created a living trust that takes effect during your lifetime, it will not generally be publicly available. A testamentary trust that only takes effect upon your death though will also need to be filed with the court along with your Will. Because it is filed with the court, it will become public record in most cases. Living Will, Healthcare Directive or Advanced Directive: Like many other people, you may choose to execute a living will when you create your estate plan. A living will, however, is legally treated as though it is part of your medical records. As such, it is protected by various privacy laws. While many states have created statewide registries for living wills, this does not make your document public record. Registering your living will only makes it accessible to authorized medical personnel. Power of Attorney: Powers of attorney come in various forms and are used for a wide range of reasons as part of an estate plan. As a general rule, there is no reason why a power of attorney should be publicly accessible. Experienced estate planning attorneys New York NY of the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of New York NY. To learn more about these free resources, please visit http://www.new-york-estate- planning.com/probate-administration/probate-administration.htm today.
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