There are generally two points in the year when you have the clearest picture of your finances, tax time and the end of the year when you’re assessing the annual performance of your investments. With the end of the year ahead of us, right now is one of the times that you probably have the best picture of the whole of your finances. Seeing your finances clearly should prompt you to consider both the investing case of the stocks you own and to ask questions like, “Is my estate plan strong enough?” or, “Should I have a trust and what does a living trust cost?”
If you already have a trust or estate plan in place, you may want to confirm that real estate and investment accounts are already titled in the name of your trust or titled in a manner consistent with your estate plan. Also, any significant life changes (like buying or selling big-ticket items, births or deaths, or changes to your family structure, etc.) should be another prompt to double-check your estate plan.
But what if you don’t have an estate plan in place? Now might be the perfect time to begin working with a will or estate attorney, or to get started with an online service, to make sure that your assets would be distributed in line with your wishes.
How Much does a Will or Living Trust Cost?
Your will or living trust cost will vary based on the complexity of the document and how much help you receive. Wills are less expensive than trusts and you can typically find templates available for download online if you’re inclined to handle a will yourself. If not, plan on spending $200-300 to have an attorney create one.
Because they’re more complex, your living trust cost will typically be $1,100-1,500 for an individual or $1,700-2,500 for a couple. As with wills, you can significantly reduce your living trust cost by using either an online service (such as LegalZoom) or by drafting a trust yourself.
Whether a will or living trust is a better vehicle for estate planning is highly individual. Living trusts can help avoid the inconvenience of going through probate but may require that your designated trustee works with an attorney regardless. Also, a living trust document cannot name a guardian for children, so even if you’ve got a trust established, you may still need a will to manage that aspect of your estate plan.
What Does My Living Trust Cost Cover?
If you ultimately decide to work with a living trust attorney, that living trust cost is paying for your attorney’s time and experience. Working with an attorney can help ensure that you’re in compliance with state law and provides an added degree of certainty for your estate plan. Should your estate be challenged in probate, your conversations with the attorney that drew up your estate plan can help demonstrate your intent for guardianships or beneficiary designations.
Also, using an attorney provides a greater degree of security because your estate can pursue litigation against that attorney if your estate plan was negligently or improperly crafted.
If you’re pursuing the DIY route, it may be more difficult for your estate to establish intent and there’s no way to pursue litigation in the event that you improperly craft a will or trust.
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How confident are you in your current estate plan?
*This post was originally published in 2021 and is periodically updated.