NAVIGATING PRIVACY CONCERNS IN ESTATE PLANNING IN TEXAS

It goes without saying that, when it comes to matters financial in nature, many people in Texas are concerned about privacy, regardless of their current financial situation. Members of the older generations, especially those who are just starting the estate planning process, are no exception. For people who find themselves concerned about financial matters after death becoming open to the public, there are ways to alleviate those concerns and maintain privacy.

In the state of Texas, the executor to an estate is required to complete a certain set of tasks to ensure the estate is allocated properly. This process must be conducted within 90 days of becoming executor and includes a public filing of bank accounts and investments for estate. In most cases, the information filed, including in-depth personal information, becomes a matter of public record. Needless to say, those who take issue with personal and financial matters becoming public find this disturbing.

Filing the information with the court is part of a series of events known as “inventory, appraisement and list” of claims and is a provision of Texas law. The goal of the procedure is to allow creditors to ensure the estate has enough assets to cover debts. The inventory is then filed with public records, which means essentially anyone can gain access to the information. In some cases, these inventories even make it onto an easily accessed website, depending upon specific recordkeeping policies.

Nonetheless, there are ways to avoid privacy panic. New Texas laws mandate that, if there are no unsecured debts held by the estate, filing an inventory with the court is not required and the information must only be provisioned to beneficiaries of the estate. However, revocable living trusts are often considered an even better option. In the case of a revocable living trust, an attorney can set up a trust for the estate wherein the trustee can distribute the assets in a completely private and undisclosed manner, avoiding probate court altogether. An attorney who has experience in estate planning may be able to help answer questions pertaining to privacy and the benefits of a revocable living trust.

Source: San Antonio Express-News, “Can estate inventory be kept private after mom dies?” Paul Premack, Sept. 27, 2011