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Ever wonder why you get to hear about all the details around a star’s estate, like Prince?  It can be fascinating, learning the details of family rifts, and of course, who will inherit the mansion.  Don’t be distracted, though, because you could be exposing those same details to the world for your family.  How?

With very few exceptions, all court cases, including probate cases, are matters of public record.  Meaning that anyone who cares to take the time can find out:

·         Who your heirs are, including their full name, and often their address

·         Exactly what they are inheriting, including details about real estate and financial accounts

In California, any estate larger than $150,000 must follow the formal probate process, which includes filing your will (if you have one), notifying all the creditors, and waiting for court approval of any distribution.  Your will instructs the court on who your beneficiaries are, and how they are to receive their inheritance.  Once in probate, your family will be required to disclose all of the assets and contact information of the heirs to the court, making that information part of the public record.

Not sure you want all of that information in the government's hands?  That is one reason why many families choose to set up a living trust.  One of the advantages of a living trust is that it protects your privacy.  With a properly funded living trust, your successor trustee doesn’t have to file a court case, avoiding probate completely.  With no public record, identify thieves and other scammers are kept out of the loop.