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B. Cost comparison

B. Cost comparison

The benefits, to most people, of the simple living Trust have been greatly exaggerated, as have the problems experienced in probate. Remember, the simple living Trust will not save taxes – fees, maybe, but not taxes. When people talk about using a Trust to avoid probate and its “costs,” they are referring primarily to attorneys’ fees, which have traditionally been based on a percentage of the probate estate’s value. This very often results in unreasonably large fees for handling even simple estates. Such fees may be permitted, but they are never required by law.

Keep in mind, too, that if you use a lawyer to prepare a living Trust – which you certainly should – the up-front cost is greater than for preparing a simple Will. Also, most property should be transferred, so you will probably need at least one deed prepared, and financial accounts also must be changed to name the Trustee as legal owner. If you need the attorney’s time on these matters, it will probably cost extra. Finally, you should have a pour-over Will done with the living Trust anyway, so that any omitted or subsequently acquired assets are “poured over” into the Trust at death. This Will should be included in the cost of drafting any living Trust.

TIP: If saving a probate attorney’s percent-based fee is the only reason you want a living Trust, you (or your Executor) can find somebody willing to handle probate on an hourly fee basis. Don’t gripe about lawyers; just shop around. Understand that Wills, Trusts and estate work comprise one of the very most complex and difficult areas in the law, so these attorneys might charge more than others. But even with a high hourly rate, the final, total fee will often be much less than a fixed percentage – IF the estate really is a simple one to settle.

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