There has been much talk in the media lately about Michael Jackson's death - what he owed, what he owned, and who would get it. People were waiting for his Will to be presented to the Court to perhaps get a deeper look at his financial life. Well, his will was presented to the Court today Download Michael Jackson's Will. And as you can see, the only thing the Will tells us (other than the fact that Diana Ross is named as the alternate guardian of his children) about his property is that everything gets "poured-over" into the Michael Jackson Family Trust. The Will is public record, as all Wills are, but the Trust is a private document which lays out in more detail how he wants his property distributed and who will manage it. This Trust does not get submitted to the Court for probate. By drafting a separate Trust, Michael could (to the extent possible given his status) preserve some privacy for himself and his children.
The things that you can keep private with a Trust are:
- Charitable bequests that are made (not everyone needs to know what charities you support),
- At what ages the children are to receive any inheritance outright (if this information is in the public record, what types of people might swoop in to help your children with their new-found wealth),
- If any of your children have special needs or addictions which would require additional oversight or management of their property well into their adult life,
- The items of personal property that you may be passing along, the value of those items and the name and address of the person who inherited it. Yes, all of that information is contained in the Probate file for a Will and is public record.
By having a stand-alone trust drafted with your estate plan, as opposed to just a Will, you are protecting your private information and your children's. You are allowing family matters to stay where they belong, in the family.
Estate Planning, Probate and Trusts involve complex areas of law. Individual circumstances must be considered before any advice can be given. The general information above is not to be construed as legal advice, which can only be given after consideration of the unique facts of each matter. Please seek the advice or counsel of your attorney, financial advisor or CPA as it may be appropriate.