The cheap way to develop a living trust is to create one yourself. Professionally-created print or electronic living trust guidebooks are available to walk you through the process of creating a living trust without the aid of estate lawyers. If you decide to proceed without legal help, always follow living trust creation guidelines exactly as instructed and contact a professional if you have questions about a complicated situation.
Why Do It Yourself?
For most middle-class people with average incomes and straightforward family circumstances, creating a living trust is a simple process that can save about $1,000. Even if you begin creating a living trust yourself but later require the help of an attorney, by becoming acquainted with the process beforehand you will at least understand the basics of creating a trust and will have a clearer idea of your estate planning goals. Most do-it-yourself living trust books and software cost less than $100.
Types of Help
Numerous law-related websites sell living trust guidebooks and do-it-yourself living trust forms -- often with money-back-guarantees if you aren't satisfied. Before purchasing any living trust guidebooks and forms, always make sure that they are valid for use in your specific state and that you are buying the most current version.
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Things to Know
Paying a lawyer to create a living trust is a worthwhile investment if you have a complicated situation, such as an estate worth millions of dollars or if you have a disabled dependent who will need to survive on your estate's proceeds after you die. However, if your estate is small and you don't own a lot of property, or are married and hold your major assets in joint tenancy with your spouse, you probably don't need a living trust at all since most states have streamlined methods to quickly transfer property to a surviving spouse instead of sending the estate directly to probate court.
How to Proceed
Creating your own living trust is the cheapest way to save money on estate planning fees before and after your death. This is because a living trust avoids the expensive and long probate process by quickly transferring specific property at your death to those people or organizations you have designated as beneficiaries. To save more time and money, one of the first things you should do before you even buy a do-it-yourself living will kit is to decide what property you want transferred into the trust and who will inherit these items.
- "Make Your Own Living Trust"; Denis Clifford, February 2001
- Nolo: Why You May Not Need a Living Trust