How one's assets are distributed after death can be an incredibly personal thing. Thus, the details of such distributions are something an individual may want kept out of the public eye after their death. Consequently, privacy is one of the big estate planning concerns an individual may have.
One of the roadblocks to keeping the details of after-death asset distributions private is the fact that the probate process is a matter of public record. Thus, the documents that go through the probate process are generally accessible by the public.
One consequence of this is that wills become public record in the probate process, as they are one of the documents that go through probate. Thus, wills generally are not able to help when it comes to privacy protection goals for estate planning.
However, there are other estate planning tools that can help with these goals. This is because some estate planning devices don’t go through probate. These devices can be used to keep certain assets and the details of their distribution out of the probate process, which may help keep such things private.
Living trusts are an example of an estate planning tool that is not subject to probate and can be used for privacy protection purposes.
Individuals who have a strong desire for privacy when it comes to the after-death distribution of their assets should think about talking with an experienced estate planning attorney about what kinds of things can be done within their estate plan to further their privacy goals.
Source: FindLaw, "Living Trusts," Accessed Jan. 8, 2016