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;
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!
I do not charge for intitial consults, which average a couple of hours. If you are willing to invest a couple of hours of your time, I'm willing to do the same. After an initial consult, I can provide my prospective client with a proposed plan and quote them a reasonable flat fee. At that time, they are free to hire me or not hire me. I don't know how to be more fair than that.
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, regardless of time spent with the client or time spent drafting the Estate Plan. 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 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.
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!