A living trust is a way to transfer money, property and other assets to your heirs without having to go through long and expensive probate court procedures. A living trust is revocable, meaning it can be changed at any time during your lifetime. It only becomes permanent or irrevocable upon your death. When you create a living trust, you transfer all your property and assets to the trust, which you manage while you live, but with a trustee you name to distribute the trust after your death. You can dictate the terms and conditions of the disposal of the trust.
Use a Lawyer
A living trust should be drafted by a lawyer experienced in estate planning and law. There are do-it-yourself trust forms and estate advisers who will offer living trust services, but it is best to have a trust agreement drafted by a lawyer for your specific situation.
What Affects Cost
How much drafting a living trust will cost depends on the size of your estate, its complexity and how much time the lawyer will have to spend talking to you about how you want to distribute the trust to your heirs or beneficiaries. If you have a lot of complicated investments, such as stocks or ownership in several businesses, the lawyer may have to do research on specific topics.
Legal costs vary from state to state and from lawyer to lawyer. Most living trusts cost from $500 for a very simple one to several thousand dollars, if there are a lot of legalities to research or assets to track down. You should get an estimate from your lawyer when you start. Explain basically what your assets and goals are and ask how long it will take and what the fees are.
May Be Expenses
There may be some valid expenses, such as fees for filing a trust agreement with a recording agency or providing copies to heirs or beneficiaries. There also may be fees to get names changed on insurance policies, investment accounts, securities and other assets. You'll also have to pay legal fees if you want to amend the trust form, to add or subtract assets, change life-insurance policies, add or delete beneficiaries or even change addresses included in the agreement.
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.