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Privacy, Revocable Trusts and the Hackerman Estate

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

The late William Hackerman might have preferred to place more of his assets in his revocable trust, if only to shield them from the prying eyes of the Baltimore Business Journal.

Mr. Hackerman spent nearly 60 years as CEO of the Whiting-Turner Contract Company, a major real estate developer in the region. Upon his death in February, he was lauded for his philanthropy and his impact on skylines all over Maryland and elsewhere.

He was also an “intensely private” man, according to Kevin Litten of the BBJ, which may be why Mr. Hackerman used a revocable trust as his primary estate planning vehicle. This technique involves executing a simple will leaving the bulk of one’s estate to a trust, and then inserting in the trust document all the gifts you would have otherwise made through your will. The trust is revocable, so it can be changed as often as a will. And, any assets you transfer into the name of your revocable trust during your life do not need to go through probate at your death.

Mr. Hackerman’s estate is a case in point. He had a revocable trust, so most of his estate plan is shielded from public view. He almost certainly transferred some assets into the name of his trust, because none of his Whiting-Turner stock is listed among his probate assets. Whatever assets are in his revocable trust are private.

But he still had over $85 million of assets in his own name at death, and these assets are listed in the probate records. These assets, according to the BBJ, offer “a rare glimpse into” Mr. Hackerman’s investments:

Much of Hackerman’s investment strategy reflects both his company’s role in building some of the state’s largest construction projects, as well as Hackerman’s history of supporting local business. At least a dozen of Hackerman’s stock holdings have ties to the Baltimore-Washington region, or were at one time locally owned.

Nearly all of the bonds Hackerman invested in were loans to Maryland cities, the state and Washington, D.C., government where Whiting-Turner held contracts for large construction projects.

Not very salacious stuff, but it is more information than Mr. Hackerman ever felt comfortable revealing during his lifetime. One wonders if he would have preferred taking the time to transfer those remaining stocks and bonds into his revocable trust. He might have preferred the privacy.

Here are links to Mr. Litten’s two articles on Mr. Hackerman’s estate, appearing in the Baltimore Business Journal:

A look inside William Hackerman’s will

William Hackerman’s estate filing details more than $85 million in investments