Big secrets withheld from close family members are difficult during life—and perhaps even more devastating upon death, when loved ones no longer have the hope of making peace with a surprising new reality. However, if you are set on keeping a big secret during your lifetime, lawyers urge extra caution with estate planning.
Normally, couples create a joint estate plan, using a single attorney who represents both partners. In that case, the attorney cannot keep one partner’s secrets from the other. Accordingly, in the event of a “secret relationship,” like ongoing support for a past partner, another lover, or a child who is undisclosed, a separate lawyer would be needed to maintain confidentiality. Upon your death however, it’s likely that your surviving partner, children and other beneficiaries will learn all—and may not be too keen on following through with your intentions. Patricia Malley of Burns & Levinson
Offers this advice:
It is important to disclose everything to your estate planning attorney. Clearly expressing your intentions regarding your “secret” beneficiary will enable the attorney to draft and execute documents that fulfill your wishes after you die…
If you believe that your estate plan may cause issues within the family (regardless of whether you have a “secret” beneficiary), you should name an independent fiduciary… This will allow them to act…without personal bias. It may also alleviate some of the emotional stress that a loved one would feel if they were responsible for administering your estate plan…
Consider using an in terrorem or “no contest” provision in your documents. This clause is intended to discourage beneficiaries from challenging the will (or trust) because if they do, they will not receive anything to which they would otherwise be entitled. However, this clause is only effective if someone is a beneficiary receiving something under the will (or trust) itself…
If you want to keep your “secret” relationship out of the public eye and still provide for the beneficiary at death, any disposition to this individual should be through a trust, not a will. On death, a will is filed with the Probate Court, becoming public record and accessible by anyone. This may not concern you, but your loved ones will likely appreciate keeping that part of your (and their) lives private.
Thoughtful, advanced preparation of an estate plan is key to advancing familial harmony across generations. Often, the greatest gifts we can offer while time permits are courageous conversation, the communication of our intentions and the mending of conflicts. Nonetheless, human nature makes family dynamics challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Add grief to the mix and we can never quite be certain of the challenges set in motion when it comes to divvying up assets. In addition to taking care with the establishment of a will or trust, the appointment of an independent fiduciary to administer affairs can be very helpful, especially when conflict is a possibility. Because a fiduciary is impartial and legally bound to execute the terms of the will or trust, conflicted relations may be more inclined to toe the line peacefully. Learn more about
independent fiduciaries here. Note that in many jurisdictions across the country, fiduciary bonds are a common requirement for those administering estate plans. By protecting the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries in accordance with all applicable laws, fiduciary bonds play an important role in the transfer of assets. At Colonial Surety, fiduciary bonds of all kinds are available directly and digitally. The steps to obtaining fiduciary bonds are easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere, anytime.
Advice for Busy Lawyers
Colonial Surety has a full range of easy, speedy fiduciary bonds including: administrator, estate, executor, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more.
Use our fully digital fiduciary bond portfolio to reduce the time and expense typically associated with antiquated bonding processes. In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys . This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file the court and fiduciary bonds clients need. See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.