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Trusts Can Give Added Privacy to Estate Plans

Because wills are considered public documents, they do not provide much privacy. Trusts, on the other hand, can help keep estate plans and what is going to happen to a person’s assets after his or her death behind closed doors. This is something that can be important for Massachusetts residents with high-value assets.

In the case of the chief executive officer for Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., there appears to be both a will and a revocable trust involved in the estate plans. The notoriously private businessman died at 95 years old on Feb. 10. His will has shown that he was a collector of antique cars and maps, had at least $2 million in real estate and had amassed $50 million in personal assets.

The type of will that the CEO used was a “pour-over” will that is designed to move the person’s assets into a revocable trust. However, the fact that the $52 million in assets were explicitly stated in the will as part of the estate and not moved into the revocable trust means that a presumably large amount of the CEO’s overall fortune will have to go through probate. This means that it could eventually be public record as to what kinds of assets comprise the $52 million since probate records are considered public.

While most people do not put all of their assets into a revocable trust, $52 million is still a lot to go through probate. It is possible that it wasn’t his assets that he wanted to keep completely private, and instead, he was more focused on the beneficiaries. The trust allows the beneficiaries to stay private. The fact that the CEO had a large amount of company stock may be another reason why most of the man’s assets went into the trust. Putting the stock in the trust would have kept it from a public appraisal, which is an added expense to the estate and would publicly disclose the company’s value.

Revocable and irrevocable trusts can be valuable estate planning tools, but it is crucial to understand the benefits and consequences of each option. Getting more information on these options can be of particular benefit to those with high-value assets, complicated estates or very specific wishes.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal, “Willard Hackerman’s $52M will reveals affinity for antique cars, but no details on net worth” Kevin Litten, Feb. 28, 2014

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