Maintaining your privacy and the privacy of your estate beneficiaries is just another benefit of creating a trust. A great example of maintaining privacy or mystery, depending on who’s asking, is the story regarding the Estate of Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Author Harper Lee died February 19, 2016. Soon thereafter Ms. Lee’s will was filed with the probate court in the State of Alabama. In general, all court pleadings, including wills filed with the Court, are public record and anyone can obtain access to those records.
The Personal Representative of Ms. Lee’s estate obtained an order to have the Will sealed so that the information contained therein would remain private. A newspaper filed suit to have the Will unsealed and the Personal Representative ultimately agreed to the request. The unsealing of the will revealed that it was a “pour-over” will that left the estate to the Mockingbird Trust, a trust created in 2011. The trust agreement is a private document, so Ms. Lee’s will did not provide any information regarding the distribution of her assets, including who would will be receiving the rights to her valuable literary work.
Laura M. Trujillo
Disclaimer: This blog is for information purposes only. Legal advice is provided only through a formal, written attorney/client agreement.