How much do trusts cost?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 17, 2009

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That varies considerably depending on the situation. Asking this is sort of like asking, “How much does it cost to build a house?” Houses cost different amounts depending on how big they are, what materials are used, and other factors. The fees for setting up a Trust are typically based on:

(1) The complexity of the estate,

(2) The nature of the property involved, and to a lesser extent, the value of that property,

(3) The amount and nature of the tax planning that is necessary,

(4) The amount of time the client will be spending with the lawyer, and the extent of “hand-holding” needed,

(5) What the client will do on his or her own, and what the lawyer will do for the client, and

(6) The other documents involved (powers of attorney, deeds, health care powers, etc.).

Generally the most crucial part of a Trust (or a Will) is the planning that goes into its preparation. The language used in these documents is pretty standard. Time is mostly spent advising you what the alternatives are and, how to solve foreseeable problems. Drafting the documents doesn’t begin until all this is resolved. Lawyers charge for this kind of discussion, their advice, drafting documents, and taking the risk of making an error.

While it generally costs more to prepare a Trust than a Will, a Trust often does a lot more than a Will.

One bit of advice: Be very careful about using forms or computer programs for Wills and Trusts. Even the best pre-printed form is likely to have provisions in it that don’t work in your situation. The laws on Trusts and Wills differ from state to state, and you have to make sure that you use the right language and execute your documents in the way your state requires. Further, lawyers assume responsibility for errors of language or damage that result from faulty execution, but stationery stores and computer software manufacturers do not take that responsibility.

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