Privacy is a concern to all of us, both during life and after death. Privacy is a concern for many reasons. We each have our own reasons for wanting privacy. People want to keep private the existence of children out of wedlock, their sexual orientation, their wealth or lack thereof, or even their choices of charitable causes. People also want to maintain their privacy just to prevent nuisances, such as telemarketers.
There are solutions to each of these issues, both during life and after death.
Lifetime gifting directly to the charity may be public because the charity must reveal the sources of its public support. You can maintain the privacy of your charitable giving and still get a charitable deduction by giving to a donor advised fund, such as the Charitable Gift Fund operated by Fidelity Investments, http://www.charitablegift.org. This fund allows you to designate where the funds go, but allows you to keep your name from being connected to the charity. For example, someone in a conservative industry may not want to be seen giving to a liberal cause or vice versa.
A revocable trust is an excellent way to achieve privacy both during life and after death. Without a revocable trust, your assets go through “probate,” which is the legal process to transfer title from a person who has died to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. As part of that process, the identity of the beneficiaries must be made public. So, if you leave assets to your child who was born out of wedlock, everyone will know what assets you left them. Similarly, if you left all your assets to your same sex partner, everyone would know. Without a trust, even the extent of your wealth or lack thereof, including your debts, is a matter of public record. Trusts can even be used to keep hidden who bought real estate or other assets. With a trust, your business stays your business. With a trust, how much you have and to whom you are leaving it remains private.
Nuisance calls can also be a violation of privacy, both for you during your lifetime and for your loved ones after your death. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate such calls, there are ways to reduce their number. First, during life, you can put your telephone numbers on the “do not call” list. The telemarketers have thirty-one days to remove you from their lists and stop calling you. Your phone numbers will stay on the list for five years. Then you would have to re-register. If a telemarketer violates the do not call list, they can be fined by the Federal Trade Commission.
Similarly, now there is a way to put a deceased person on a “Deceased Do Not Contact” list managed by the Direct Marketing Association. All of the 5,000 plus members of the organization have been required to refrain from contacting people on the list and their loved ones. This includes removing their physical address, e-mail address, and phone numbers from databases. In order to register someone, go to http://preference.the-dma.org/cgi/ddnc.php. The DMA requires a charge of $1 to your credit card in order to provide a method to track who reported the deceased.
Of these methods to maintain your privacy, the use of a revocable living trust is the strongest and broadest measure. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to maintain your privacy both during life and after your death.
Morrison Law Group, PLC has devoted its practice to estate planning and elder law matters for more than 17 years and has been a Member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys since 2017. Morrison Law Group, PLC is one of only three firms in Louisiana to be admitted to Academy Membership. The firm has helped thousands of clients meet their estate planning goals and pass on lasting legacies to their loved ones. To learn more about how you can achieve your estate planning goals, please call (504) 831-2348 or visit our website at www.morrisonlawplc.com.