Who Needs the Help of Trust Lawyers?
Can you create a trust without an attorney? You may have heard that people can perform some legal tasks according to trust and estate law through DIY online services. While it is true that this is possible, it is not right for everyone and runs the risk of not holding up as strongly in cases where outcomes are not entirely straightforward or a claim is made. Even the most basic processes benefit from the trained eye of an attorney to avoid costly mistakes.
Maybe you have heard or think that trust lawyers work only for the wealthy—that an individual only needs legal assistance with estate planning from an attorney if they have millions of dollars, numerous assets, and a sprawling estate.
It is sometimes true that those with more possessions and wealth need more intricate estate planning assistance from a trust or estate planning attorney. However, more does not always mean “more complicated,” just as having fewer assets does not mean one’s estate planning journey will be entirely straightforward. Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process, and McCunn Law does not approach it that way. The process may be more attainable and beneficial than some realize, while others know that they need assistance and are just looking for the right team to help.
How Do I Find a Good Trust Attorney?
There are three major items to consider when selecting a trust attorney. First, you want to choose someone who specializes in trust law. It seems obvious, but depending on your knowledge of the legal system, you may think that just any lawyer will do. You may cut many corners unintentionally if you do not hire an expert in estate planning and trusts. Second, it is often important to hire someone within your geographic area, where the estate is, or where its assets are held. This is because laws regarding probate, taxes, inheritance, and disputes that arise within these areas of practice vary by state and sometimes by county.
You want to hire an attorney or legal team that knows your area in terms of property and asset value and tax and probate law, as well as the community culture and values. Last, it is imperative to select a legal plan of action that is the right scale and price for your family’s unique needs. McCunn Law offers a range of trust and will planning services, big and small. A legal team can help you assess how much or how little assistance you need and walk you through the pricing process so that getting important affairs sorted is not any more stressful than it needs to be.
How Much Does a Trust Attorney Charge for a Living Trust?
Typically, in the United States, a trust attorney charges between $1,000 to $2,000 to set up a living trust for an individual. For a married couple, the cost is around $2,000 to $2,500. However, fees depend on the complexity of the trust and the attorney or legal team you choose. Again, there are cheaper options where you can draw up a living trust remotely. While any legal professional would advise you that something is better than nothing, you’d be gambling on whether these documents are legally viable across the board and whether they would hold up in court should an issue or claim arise.
The more complex an individual or family’s situation, the more imperative it is to avoid cutting corners while drawing up a living trust. Though the fees vary, they are a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind. Often, legal teams have tiers of cost breakdowns, depending on the attorney’s experience and level of practice. Some scenarios that practically guarantee an individual or married couple need the assistance of an estate lawyer are multiple marriages, children, step and half children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, multiple properties, extensive assets and investments, estates that have been inherited from someone else, family rifts, and much more.
What Do Trust Attorneys Do?
Trust lawyers specialize in developing living trusts with clients who desire this arrangement for their property, investments, and other assets. Trusts vary from wills and have unique benefits, which we will further expand upon. Often, like the team at McCunn Law, trust attorneys specialize in adjacent areas of law, further expanding their area of legal knowledge and expertise. These areas include but are not limited to tax law, probate law, divorce law, mitigation, litigation, adoption, custody, conservatorship, and emancipation. Essentially, trust lawyers are attorneys focusing on the inner workings and complexities of family life and how people’s journey through life and death intertwines with the legal system. They help you plan and streamline your trust to maximize benefits and minimize disputes and difficulties. Hiring someone to assist with planning your trust helps you now and your family later.
How Is a Trust Different From a Will?
You may have heard the words “trust” and “will” used interchangeably. They both are plans for assets, estates, and investments that an individual or couple puts in place to plan for eventualities. However, wills are contingent exclusively on the death of the person whose will it is and have to be opened in probate. Trusts are not contingent on death (although that might be their purpose) and do not have to go through probate. When an individual or couple does pass away, the probate process can be very stressful for their beneficiaries, as it is a long process of withholding assets, even when the decedent has provided a viable will during life.
Who Needs a Trust?
There are two primary reasons an individual or married couple needs trust, and they apply to a broader base than one might imagine. The first is owning real estate here in California. Real estate prices are high in most areas of the state, including Folsom, being relatively close to the Bay Area. That can mean that people who do not necessarily consider themselves wealthy may still have a considerable amount of wealth in their homes, especially on scale with the national average. If you own a home in California and want to avoid the delay and potential hassles of probate, this is a good enough reason in and of itself to create a trust. The second reason someone might opt for a trust is that they have minor children and wish to avoid the considerable cost, time, and parameters of guardianship.
Do I Need a Trust or a Will?
As mentioned above, the reasons for needing a trust are not as far-reaching as one might imagine. Someone who owns a home and/or has children may be wise to select a trust just because it will make life easier down the line. However, opting for a will is viable for some people. If, when one eventually passes on, they do not mind the idea of their assets going through the probate process and their loved one waiting for (and potentially risking something going wrong with) said proceedings, then a will may be chapter to execute.
Wills and trusts are both important, and it is better to have either than to be completely unprepared, of course. However, a trust simplifies some aspects of the process, can be easier on loved ones, and even offers more options while the benefactor and beneficiary are both still living, rather than inheriting only from a decedent. A person may also opt to do both—to have a trust for a particular aspect of their assets and have a more general living directive.
Additionally, one may opt to have a will as a matter of security up until the point that they want to invest in creating a trust, possibly after amassing more wealth, property, or assets. Lastly, spouses who have separate finances may opt for one to have a will and the other to have a trust. The process can be tailored to the client’s specific needs.
Stages of a Trust
Trusts go through several distinct stages. First, they are created by the trust maker (the person who set up the trust). Then, it is a common occurrence that the trust maker may become incapacitated before passing away. The trustee acts on their behalf. Next, the trustee fully takes over in the event of the trust maker’s death. Assets are dispersed among the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries have varying degrees of involvement depending on the type of trust (revocable or irrevocable). When a trust has served its function, it may be dissolved; however, some trusts exist long term depending on the type of assets and purpose they serve.