Although different countries may have different laws regarding wills, in the U. S. wills are a public record once they have been filed with the court. Anyone can make a will and keep it private, until they pass away and the will is submitted for probate. The probate court determines the validity of the will and settles the estate, after which the will enters the public record. Certain privacy laws within a given state, province, or country may restrict access to wills, within a particular time period, just as they do for certain vital records. It is possible, however, for someone to die and pass along his or her inheritance through a living trust, which, unlike a will, is not probated and never becomes part of the public record.
Help us improve this frequently asked questions area. Please send us feedback or additional questions.