Are Wills Public Records?

By Joshua Jones
Probate proceedings are a matter of public record.

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Estate planning can be an extremely complex matter, depending on the size and types of a person's assets. Wills eventually become part of the public record via the probate court process. In response, private estate planning techniques, such as trusts, have arisen.

Creation of the will

During the creation of the will, everything remains confidential thanks to lawyer regulations and rules of evidence that maintain client confidentiality. Notes, drafts of a will and the will itself may not be revealed by the attorney or his staff.

Storing the will

After the will has been created, the testator -- the person that is the subject of the will -- is free to publish her will to the public. In a few states, such as Maryland, she may also register her will. However, even if a will is registered, the contents remain private until death. Only the fact that a will exists would be available to the public.

Probate

Upon death and opening of a probate proceeding, which is necessary to process the will, the will becomes public record. With few exceptions, such as cases involving minors, probate court records are public records. This is why some families pass property via a trust rather than by will.

About the Author

Joshua Jones began writing in 2003. He has published serial fiction on ezines, penned scholarly legal articles, and contributed online to the School Shootings Anthology. Jones holds a Bachelor of Music Education, University of Montevallo, a Master of Education Law and Juris Doctor from the University of New Hampshire School of Law, and a master's degree from McGeorge School of Law.

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