Photograph: Jaqueline Kennedy, First Lady and wife of the 35th President of the United States John F. Kennedy, arriving at Lincoln Center, New York City, September 23, 1962.
WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker as he explains how family valuables, such as jewelry, silver, art, a family firearms collection, or a coin or stamp collection, become publicly available if passed down to heirs through a will. A will is normally probated following death, which is a government administered legal process that makes the contents of a deceased person’s will, including the valuables and assets listed in that will, publicly available. Thefts have followed disclosure of family valuables in probate, and the information about a family’s valuables, and who inherited those valuables, may be also potentially later accessed’ by con artists, scammers, and swindlers.
Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis (often later nicknamed “Jackie O” by the press), the wife of America’s 35th president John F. Kennedy remarried to Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, chose to pass down her assets to heirs in her will. Following her death in Manhattan , on May 19, 1994, her will was probated, and then became available to the news media and general public, like most wills do. As a result, the text of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis’ will, what she had and who she gave it to, entered the public domain, and now has been posted to various Internet sites where it has been viewed thousands of times by people from all over the world.
A commonly available estate planning document called a revocable trust can pass down grandmother’s silver set, a gold coin collection, family firearms, and all other family assets privately, escaping public probate disclosure. When a revocable trust is used, the list of family valuables and assets being passed down to heirs is written into the trust document, not into the publicly-probated will document. Under North Carolina law, the contents of a trust may be kept completely private, with only the trustee (the trusted family or professional manager of the trust assets) and beneficiaries actually written into the trust document, having legal access to the written contents of the trust.
A trust, such as a revocable trust, may thus be the best way to pass down family valuables and assets to loved ones after you pass away, so that what you have, and who you give it to, stays private.
Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics. Please listen to Vance’s July 23, 2019 conversation with WTOB radio personality Bob Scarborough about “Why You Should Use a Trust to Pass Down Family Valuables” by clicking the audio link below.