Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of John Edwards, the former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, hopeful, died at the end of 2010 of breast cancer. Recently, her Last Will and Testament was filed with the probate court. As many of you know, probate is a public process and the contents of a Will are therefore a matter of public record. The contents of Elizabeth Edwards' Will provided the following information:
- The Will was signed on December 1, 2010, only six days before she died.
- Edwards appoints her oldest daughter, Catharine Elizabeth Edwards, as executor of her estate.
- Catharine Elizabeth Edwards is also named to serve as guardian of Elizabeth's two minor children.
- All personal property (furniture, china, silverware, antiques, collectibles, jewelry, etc.) is left to Elizabeth's three children.
- The rest of Elizabeth's estate (cash, stocks, bonds and other investments, real estate, etc.) is left to the Elizabeth Edwards' Revocable Living Trust which trust was amended and restated on the same day Elizabeth signed her Will in late 2010.
Because Elizabeth Edwards had a Revocable Living Trust, the value of her assets that were in the trust and how those assets are to be distributed is not a matter of public record and will be kept private, which is probably exactly what Elizabeth Edwards wanted. Privacy is one of the benefits of a Revocable Living Trust - it keeps the details about who's getting what away from our prying eyes. Revocable Trusts also avoid probate costs and provide for disability planning among other things.
In the case of Elizabeth Edwards, its a case of how an estate plan should work to accomplish a person's objectives.