Burt Reynolds, the legendary actor, sadly died in September 2018, at the age of 82. According
to his Last Will and Testament, which was reportedly obtained by TMZ in a People Magazine
article, he left his only son out of his Will. The actual language was “I intentionally omit him
from this, my Last Will and Testament, as I have provided for him during my lifetime in my
Declaration of Trust.”

I always love how these gossip magazines find a copy of the deceased celebrity’s Will, and then
start making headlines “His Only son Out of His Will…” which of course sounds terrible. First of
all, TMZ was only able to get a copy of the Will because his family filed the Will in the county of
his residence. In Illinois, there is a law that states an original Will must be filed within 30 days of
death. I imagine there is a similar law in Burt’s State of residence. Secondly, his son’s
inheritance is quietly distributed via a Trust. The whole world does not need to know how his
inheritance is being given to him.

I am so pleased to see that Burt did a fantastic thing! He left his family a plan with PRIVACY. He
signed what is considered a “Pour Over Will” which generally goes together with a Living Trust.
The only document that needs to be filed with the county is the Will. The Will has very limited
language. As stated by the People article, his assets are distributed via his Trust, which is a
private document. Nobody gets to see that document except for the family, and certain

During our lives, we are all fairly private. We do not tell people what we make, how much we
have in savings, what we have on our tax returns and who we give gifts to. Why should that
information be public upon our death? Some people tell me…who cares, I’ll be dead. And I
come back with, “well, if you care about your beneficiaries, then you should care about
whether their private information will be made available to the public.” In the probate court
documents, we are required to report the size of the estate AND the names and addresses of all
of the beneficiaries. So now your children or other beneficiaries are exposed to people who
may take advantage of them because they may be getting an inheritance.

The moral of the story is….PRIVATE IS BETTER THAN PUBLIC. If you care about how your hard-earned
assets will go to your family, friends and charities, GET YOUR ESTATE PLAN DONE NOW,
so they can also enjoy the privacy that Burt Reynold’s family now have.

About the author
Maritess T. Bott, of Bott & Associates, Ltd. is an estate planning attorney in Rolling Meadows,
Illinois, a Northwest suburb of Chicago. She has been an attorney since 1997, and has helped
hundreds of families have peace of mind by protecting their wealth, and preserving their
relationships. She has been a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
since 2003, a nationally recognized organization of attorneys who specialize in estate planning
and probate. If you are interested in more information, you may check out