Privacy Rights in the Estate Context

The law in California affords a right of privacy to the wishes of someone who during life has prepared or is in the process of preparing a will, trust or other estate document. So, a person who believes they are listed as a beneficiary in a will or trust or other bequeathing document has no right to see the document during the lifetime of the person who has the estate. However, once the person dies then the right to privacy ends and the beneficiary has the right to see the will, trust or other estate documents.

In fact, once the person dies their estate documents must be shown to the beneficiaries of the estate by the successor trustee or by the person in control of the estate.

In other words, while a person is alive their wishes are private and are protected from the scrutiny of those who are or who believe they may become a beneficiary under the estate.  Yet, once the person dies their wishes if confirmed in an estate document are subject to review and must be shown to the actual beneficiaries under the estate.

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