If you’ve been following the news, the passing of Queen Elizabeth has set into motion various formal processes, including the coronation of a new king. One of the details of the family’s final arrangements was the fact that the will of Queen Elizabeth II will be sealed and locked away for the next 90 years. When members of the royal family have passed away, it is custom that the executor of the deceased royal’s estate ask a judge to seal the will. By sealing these wills, the royal family can protect its privacy during a difficult time.
But can ordinary people ask that their wills be sealed? Are there situations where you may want to request that your will be sealed?
Celebrities and individuals who are of public interest may sometimes request that their wills be sealed, that is, protected from public access. One doesn’t need to be a mega-celebrity like Queen Elizabeth II to ask that a will be sealed. Recently, the estate of the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee asked that the writer’s will be sealed to protect the family from harassment, exploitation, and other harm. Anyone whose estate might become public interest could request that the will be sealed during the probate process. This prevents the general public from being able to access records about the probate process, records which may reveal information about a deceased person’s estate.
When a person passes away and a will passes through probate, a will becomes public record. Most wills need to be filed for probate. During the probate process a will is validated by a judge, creditors and debts are paid, the estate is appraised, and then distributed to heirs. However, when a will is filed for probate, it also becomes public record. This means that anyone who may want to look at the contents or details of the probate process can do so.
It can be challenging to get a court to grant that a will’s contents be sealed during the probate process. Generally, it is difficult to get a judge to seal a will, but not impossible. If you do want to have your loved one’s will sealed during probate, you may want to speak to a Palm Beach, Florida estate planning lawyer at Moran & Associates. Our estate planning attorneys can review your situation, help you understand whether it’s possible to seal your will, and assist you with the next steps.
Yet, the best way to protect your privacy and your family’s privacy is during the estate planning process itself, not when a will is filed for probate. If privacy is a concern for you and your family, your Palm Beach, Florida estate planning lawyer can help you use estate planning instruments that can better protect your privacy. Don’t want your will on the public record? Try using a trust instead. Moran & Associates is an estate planning law firm in Palm Beach, Florida that can help you develop an estate plan that can protect your privacy.
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