Don't Fall Victim to the Living Trust Mills
When thinking about getting an estate plan, it can be challenging to know and understand what is needed and how much it's going to cost. For most (not all) people, a Living Trust is the best estate planning option because it is the only one that addresses the three main objectives:
- DISTRIBUTION (to the right people, at the right time and keeping the wrong people out!)
- MANAGEMENT (for you when you're ill, disabled, incapacitated or for your beneficiaries after you're gone)
- PRESERVATION (may avoid Conservatorship, Death Probate, claims of live-in partner or future spouse, estate taxes for a married couple)
Typically, if you own a home in California, it is advisable to consider getting a Living Trust. The cost to Probate your estate after you pass away will far exceed the cost to set up a Living Trust and there's many other benefits of a Living Trust beyond avoiding Probate.
Now that one is on board getting a Living Trust to properly protect, manage and distribute their hard-earned assets, the next big question is always - - what is this going to cost me?
This is where we see a lot of people become pennywise and pound foolish. They seek out the cheapest estate plan available, because surely it's not that hard to simply type in a few names in a document and spit out a stack of paper, right?
Not All Living Trusts Are the Same!
If it was simply plug and play and printing out a document, then surely the California State Bar wouldn't require someone to have a law license to practice estate planning. Even further, the State Bar of California has also established a special certification in the area of Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law. They recognize attorneys who have been in practice for a certain number of years and have to take extra exams and courses to maintain their knowledge and ability to help clients in the area of estate planning.
Estate planning is more than just a stack of paper. Part of the job of the estate planning attorney is to properly counsel clients about their specific circumstances. Most family situations are not cut and dry and so straightforward. There are complex relationships and family dynamics involved, particularly if there are blended families with children from different marriages and so forth. This now makes up more than 50% of most families and these situations create further complexities that must be thought through. Estate planning attorneys with the proper experience and expertise have seen enough cases or administered enough trusts after people have passed away to know what works - - and what doesn't work!
Simply going for a cheaper estate plan might save you money today, but if it's not properly built or maintained over your lifetime, what could that really end up costing you and your family?
The amount of terribly drafted or outdated trusts that we have seen over the past few years has been alarming. It has put us in the awful position of having to help families work through some very difficult outcomes, which we see could have easily been avoided had they either kept their estate plan updated or went with an attorney who knew how to properly draft a trust. From either having to go to Court to tearing families apart fighting over the division of assets, these things are all what we aim to avoid by properly drafting and maintaining our clients' estate plans.
Think About It…
If you needed to have surgery (either life-saving or even cosmetic), would you go online and just find the doctor who is the cheapest? Would you risk your life or your body that way? We hope not! Similarly, if you were in the market for a new car, would you simply go online and find the cheapest one available? Would you get the car that's the cheapest and it doesn't have antilock brakes, airbags, seatbelts or other safety components? Absolutely not! You would want the car that would keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of an accident, right?
These examples we're giving you are the same as your estate planning.
You spend all of your lives working hard, saving, making smart investments, and trying to do what's right to preserve your hard-earned assets and properly take care of them. Why would you then risk all of this to save some money?
Beware of the Living Trust Mill
Living Trust mills have been around for decades as Living Trusts became more popular. In particular, they mask themselves behind a free or low-cost Living Trust with the hope for a large “sale” in terms of the sale of financial services, such as life insurance, annuities or other investments. Many times, there are no lawyers involved and you are just providing your personal information to a paralegal or document preparer with no counseling or guidance (and if there is, they are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law). For more information about Living Trust Mills, see this notice from the California Attorney General’s Office.
In conclusion, we understand that you have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing an estate planner. It may be hard to know how one plan or firm may differ from another. This is where experience and expertise go a long way. Thompson Von Tungeln has been servicing the estate planning needs of the Antelope Valley since 1977. We have a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law on staff and we have drafted and administered thousands of estate plans after people have passed away. We know what works and what doesn't!
Attend one of our free seminars to learn more about how our firm can help you and your loved ones properly protect your estate. All attendees will be offered a FREE attorney consultation at the conclusion of the seminar.
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