Hello, my name is Bridget Mackay, I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California, and I practice in the area of estate planning.

Today I want to talk about: Can living trusts protect your privacy? I get this question a lot, mostly amongst people who have sort of high profile jobs. And it’s true, because with today, with so much private information available to the public and too much information out there that can be discovered through simple online searches, you may want to create another level of privacy into your life.

You may not know this, but people can find out where you live by simply searching your name these days, and a simple search in county records can provide a list of properties that you may own. So, the value… For many of us, this leads to minor annoyances sometimes, like junk mail or phone calls or questions about wanting to sell your house. But for people like law enforcement officers, security offices, sometimes educators or politicians, or any kind of public figure, it could lead to embarrassment or even a compromise for the security of your family. And it is really scary to think a mentally disturbed person you had contact with in some way could find you, your house, or indeed your family.

You can add an extra layer of protection through a living trust. If the trust owns your home or other real property or assets that are in county records, and a friend or, someone other than yourself serves as trustee, the trust would be listed on title and the friend’s name associated with it. Thereby, those searches wouldn’t pull up your name and you associated with your property. I did have a client who lived in a foreign country and that was his concern. He didn’t want anybody… He was a well known business person in this foreign country and owned some properties in California and did not want those folks related to his business in this foreign country to know he had property in California. And so, we found an appropriate trustee, we named the trust, didn’t include his name in the trust, registered those with the certain counties that they were in, and that gave him an extra layer of protection if someone were to decide to see if he owned any properties outside of the country he lived in.

The other advantage is, at death, all the affairs of your trust are not public record like a probate. So, the value of your estate, the contents of your estate, and your beneficiaries are all kept out of public records when you have a living trust. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you protect your privacy and provide peace of mind by creating a trust for you that will give that extra layer.

Santa Rosa, CA