I love Broadway musicals.
Always have, ever since I was little.
And one of my favorite classic musicals is The Music Man. Featuring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and Ron Howard (when he was still little Ronny), this show contains a slew of great songs. One of my favorites is "Ya Got Trouble," performed the main character, Harold Hill, a smooth-talking con man who arrives in River City to sell musical instruments to the townsfolk.
About right now, you're wondering what does one of the most popular songs from The Music Man have to do with Estate Planning? Read on to find out!
Earlier today, I shared two articles on Facebook and Twitter that shared intimate details about the Last Will and Testament of Princess Diana and that of Richard Harrison (former star of the tv show Pawn Stars). Have you ever stopped to wonder how in the world the details of these very private matters become publicized?
Well, it's because these matters aren't very private at all.
There's no need for a reporter to slip money to court personnel to get access. These documents are public record. And guess what - yours will be too!
We may not be in River City, but let me break it to you -
Ya Got Trouble.
Trouble with a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for Probate
(or Public...or a complete and total lack of Privacy)
Here's a little known fact: a Last Will and Testament becomes a public record once it is filed with the court after the individual's death. As if that wasn't enough, in North Carolina, not only does your Will become public record, but the executor of your estate is also required to file an inventory of your assets - both a description of the asset and the current value. The inventory must list all bank accounts (even if the account was held joint with another person), retirement assets, brokerage accounts (stocks and bonds), the amount of cash the deceased individual had on hand, the value of his or her household furnishings and other personal belongings such as jewelry, real estate holdings, etc. Not only must the Executor of the estate list these assets at the start of the probate process, but the Executor has to keep updating the inventory as new assets are discovered and as values changes.
This is a tremendous amount of information about your personal matters that is put into the public sphere. The result is that anyone, and I do mean anyone (it does not have to be a friend or family member), can get their hands on documentation that identifies who your heirs are and breakdowns exactly how much money your heirs are to receive. To me, that's a terrifying thought when there are people in this world who make a living preying on the naïve and unsuspecting.
Naturally, the question becomes how do I stop this from happening? How to I protect the identity of my heirs and the keep the value of my estate private?
USE A TRUST.
A trust document is not required to be filed at the courthouse upon death. Therefore, the trust document is never entered into the public sphere. There is no inventory of trust assets recorded and no identification of your heirs catalogued.
Using a trust allows you to keep your private information private.
The Music Man - Ya Got Trouble - 1958