Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Can a court keep the terms of a probated will secret?

SealedOne usually thinks of a probate will as a public document which demonstrates the transfer of property from a deceased person to a living person, just like a recorded deed documents transfer of property between two living individuals.

In what is a highly unorthodox procedure, a judge has sealed the will of a deceased doctor, Joseph Alert Sonnier III.  The probate lawyer handling the case asserts this is proper "to maintain as much privacy as possible."  It seems to me that Sonnier should have used a trust or other non-probate technique if he desired privacy.  It is also interesting to note that even the order sealing the will was itself sealed.

A lawyer for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal is seeking to have the will unsealed.

If the order stands, it will certainly cause problems especially for title examiners who need to document the chain of title.

See Walt Nett, Sealing Sonnier's will appears to breach court procedures, attorney says, Lubbockonline.com, Sept. 4, 2012.


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See the below from the ABA-PTL List regarding Joe Paterno's sealed then unsealed will.

Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2012 20:24:37 +0000
From: Chuck Durante
Subject: Re: [ABA-PTL] Paterno's Will sealed

Press pries Will open"


-----Original Message-----
From: The Estate Planner's and Administrator's Discussion [mailto:ABA-PTL@MAIL.AMERICANBAR.ORG] On Behalf Of Dan Evans
Sent: Sunday, June 10, 2012 7:41 PM
Subject: Re: [ABA-PTL] Paterno's Will sealed


Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 10, 2012, at 9:39 AM, Chuck Durante wrote:

> http://citizensvoice.com/news/joe-paterno-s-dying-secret-1.1327633
> Is there any statutory authority for this?
> Charles J. Durante
> Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz LLP
> 1007 Orange Street
> P. O. Box 2207
> Wilmington, Delaware 19899
> (302) 888-6280
> fax: (302) 255-4280
> http://cblh.com/attorneys/cdurante
Thank you for your continued interest in the ABA-PTL list.

To manage your subscription or search the ABA-PTL archives go to http://mail.americanbar.org/archives/aba-ptl.html .

Posted by: Joe Hodges | Sep 7, 2012 10:57:57 AM

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