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.
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.