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Trusts may be preferable to wills for family privacy

Many Nevada residents know that celebrities have little privacy during their lifetime. Lou Reed, the consummate performer, was on the world's stage for decades as a guitarist with The Velvet Underground, songwriter and solo performer. Yet, when he died in 2013, he may have been able to keep the distribution of his estate private if he had chosen to use a revocable living trust instead of a will.

Details of Reed's will are well-known. His former manager, friend and now one of two executors of his will recently disclosed to the New York probate court that the estate earned in excess of $20 million from publishing, copyright and other royalties since Reed died at age 71. The executors of Reed's estate are paid $220,000 for their services. This is in stark contrast to executors for other celebrities who receive a percentage of deals they broker after the person's death. Reed's wife and sister share in the royalties, and his wife received real estate and other assets he left behind. His sister was given a lump sum of money to care for Reed's mother.

Wills are filed in probate court, and since this is a public process the contents of the will are known to anyone who cares to look at it. In contrast, revocable trusts are not public documents, and their contents are not open to inspection. Not only do they afford a measure of privacy to the family, but they are less frequently challenged by others.

As in this case, individuals may benefit from consulting with an attorney concerning a revocable trust. The attorney may assist in drafting a document that allows the individual to distribute their estate as they wish and assure a degree of privacy to their heirs.

Source: Forbes, "Lou Reed Walked On The Wild Side With His Estate Planning", July 10, 2014

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