“Steve Jobs’ heirs could be forced to sell Apple shares. Tech mogul’s estate faces $867 million tax bill.” So asserted a recent online article from NBC’s Bay Area affiliate, which goes on to suggest selling the stock as a means of avoiding higher taxes. But while headlines about the super rich and their taxes may generate website traffic, the most important point in the article will be mostly overlooked. It is this; “Before his death, Jobs moved [the stock] into a trust to avoid probate fees.”
This estate planning technique is not reserved for the rich. It involves creating a trust that owns your assets, over which you have complete control during your lifetime. It is called a revocable, or living trust. And while it does nothing in itself to avoid taxes, it is the reason why this article can only speculate about Mr. Jobs’ estate. Because unlike probate (which is the public, court supervised estate settlement process), a living trust can provide privacy in passing assets to heirs. So if privacy is a concern in planning for your family and legacy, you would do well to research this as an option for your own estate plan.