Individuals have long been interested in protecting their private family and financial matters from broad public disclosure. Motives vary, of course, but can range from safety concerns to saving certain family members from public embarrassment that could jeopardize future busi ness and social opportunities. 1 While motives may have changed little over time, the urgency to protect privacy is more pronounced in today's world.2 For example, 100 years ago the primary vehicle for wide dissemi nation of news - including a family's or individual's private matters - was newspapers. While disclosure through this medium could certainly be embarrassing, the disclosure would be the result of journalistic and editorial processes and, even then, limited to the circulation of the news paper. In today's digital age, with widespread ownership of smartphones and the 24/7 news cycle, public disclosure of private information can be virtually instantaneous, global in scope, and without procedural safe guards. Further, bad actors have an ever-expanding toolbox for commit ting a growing list of financial and cyber-crimes with the information that could be disclosed. With these rapidly developing threats in mind, client families may have a heightened interest in maintaining privacy for themselves and their loved ones.
This article will review some traditional techniques estate planners use for maintaining client privacy and how the protections those tech niques provide may be eroding as developments in the law intersect with the interest of client privacy. Additionally, the article will explore tech niques and best practices families could employ to maintain a balance between transparency to beneficiaries and the protection of family privacy with respect to third parties.
Mel M. Justak & Anne-Marie Rhodes, Maintaining Client Privacy in an Increasingly Public World, 47 ACTEC L.J. 65 (2021).