Individuals who want to keep their affairs private may want to think about what kinds of estate plans they're writing. Illinois residents in the throes of estate planning need to know that there are differences between will-based estate plans and those built around trusts. In a nutshell, information included in wills becomes public record once the testator dies. Trusts, on the other hand, remain private.
Instructions in a will usually go through probate and once that happens, everything in it becomes open to public scrutiny. People know who was left what and who was left nothing. Names of everyone in the will can easily be accessed. Anyone who walks into the probate court can have access to the will to see what the testator owned and owed.
People who don't like the idea of their lives laid bare in such a way may want to consider a trust-based will instead. A revocable living trust keeps everything private and the only people who have access to information are the trustee and the grantor who is the beneficiary while still living. The difference between a will and a revocable living trust is that every phase of the trust is private and, upon the death of the grantor, will not have to go through the probate process.
An Illinois estate planning attorney is in the position of advising clients which type of estate plan would be best for their situations. In some cases, affairs may not need to be kept private or the testator doesn't mind if the public has access to his or her information. Trusts have other benefits, too -- pertaining to taxation. But a lawyer can explain those particulars as well.