According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Department of Court Records in Allegheny County plans to have many probate records, such as wills, available for viewing online in the near future.
Read the story here.
For years, privacy has been suggested as a reason to have a revocable living trust instead of a will. That reason never impressed me much. True, a will becomes a public record once it is used to open an estate. But the only way your friends or neighbors can read your will is to go downtown, find (and pay for) a parking space, locate the Department of Court Records, and fill out a form to see your file. Who is going to bother?
But if such records can be easily viewed online, your will could be read by neighbors, distant relatives, acquaintances, and complete strangers. (As the article points out, the system will restrict access to some sensitive documents.)
I’m in favor of having more public records, including probate records, available online. But I suspect the increased public access will persuade more people to choose estate planning alternatives, like trusts, that offer a higher level of privacy.