What are the 'Nuts & Bolts' of a Living Revocable Trust (as opposed to an irrevocable MediCaid-Planning Trust)?

While you and your spouse are alive, you each serve as Trustees (or managers), maintaining absolute control over your money and assets that have been placed into your Trust (unlike an irrevocable 'MediCaid-Planning Trust);

You maintain the ability to buy, sell, and transfer assets (in, fundamentally, the same way as you always have);

When you and/or your spouse have become incapacitated or passed away, your Estate Plan takes over and sees that your home, cars, bank accounts, and other assets are properly maintained until they can be distributed to your children (or other beneficiaries) if they are of an appropriate age, or if they are not, then your money and assets are held in your Trust for the benefit of your children and are paid out to your children under whatever circumstances you direct. In the latter case, a Successor Trustee pre-appointed by you manages your Trust assets according to your direction and for the benefit of each child;

Your Estate Plan will also come into play in the event you become incapacitated, so that your money and assets are managed, protected and used for your benefit; and

The time, cost, and publicity associated with probate are avoided!

What can I expect an Estate Plan to cost me?

I, generally, charge $75 for intitial consults (which average a couple of hours) and will 'roll' that charge into my flat fee upon being hired.  After an initial consult, there is usually not more than two or three plan options that make good sense, and one of the options usually stands out as the most viable/plausible.  I can then quote the prospective client a reasonable flat fee for that agreed upon plan.  That way, people know and understand on the front end (and before hiring me) exactly what their total cost/fees will be, and more particularly, what to expect in exchange for that fee.  

More generally, Estate Plans shouldn't cost but a small fraction of what the attorney’s fees, court costs, taxes (potentially), and other expenses that are associated with probate will cost and that will occur if you pass without a plan at all or with a Last Will and Testament, only.  Some people will say to me, "If I'm already gone, what do I care?"  Well, if you don't mind unecessarily lining the pockets of attorneys with money you've left behind that could have otherwise lined your children's (or grandchildren's) pockets or a charity, perhaps, then by all means, pass without an estate plan... or pass with a Will, only.  You'll likely do just  that!

All Estate Planning packages are provided for a sensible Flat Fee. Flat fees vary depending on the set of facts presented, the 'wants/wishes' of the client, and overall complexity of the plan.  I, however, make a conscious effort to price plans in a way so that the client is not picking and choosing between plausible options based on costs, or much worse, whether to have an estate plan at all.   A good estate plan should be accessible and affordable to everyone!

In short, expect to pay the rough equivalent of one to two average monthly car payments for a comprehensive plan that does not include a Trust, and two to four average car payments for a comprehensive plan that does include a Trust (most of us can benefit from a Trust, but not all of us).  It's difficult for me to be any more specific than that having not yet met you, much less discussed your wants, wishes, and concerns.  (By the way, I never cease to find it curious what people are willing (and even eager) to spend on a vehicle or cable TV over a year's time (and, thereafter, year after year), but will balk at spending the equivalent of a small fraction of those monies just one time to address one of the most important matters they and their family will face!)

What can my family expect if I die without an Estate Plan?

A percentage of the money and assets you intended to go to your children (or grandchildren or a charity) will likely go, instead, to a probate lawyer for 'probating' your estate (typically 3% to 5% of the combined gross value of all your probate assets at the date of your death!);

Your children may have to wait... and wait... and wait to access any of your money or assets.  Probate proceedings involving real estate often last 18-24 months!; 

A breeding ground may be created for disagreement and turmoil amongst your children, beneficiaries, heirs, etc.; and

The probate process is public!  One of the big perks of a living, revocable trust (a simple probate avoidance trust) is privacy.

In short, absent oversight, neglect, or shear ignorance of the issue, there is absolutely no reason to allow any of your assets or your family to fall subject to probate!

Lastly, if you want to decide WHO is taking care of you and your assets while you are incapacitated and after you have passed AND also control HOW they are going about it, then you must have a PLAN!  Otherwise, you are leaving such matters up to a probate judge and, perhaps, others whom you do not know... and may not trust if you did know them!

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