How much Should it typically cost to set up a living trust in California?
How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?
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The Typical Costs of Estate Planing
Depending on where you live and how complicated your family and financial circumstances are, a lawyer may charge anything from a few hundred to several thousand dollars for a will and other essential estate planning documents.
Estate planning lawyers don’t all charge the same way. You may want to ask up front if you’re more comfortable with one way or another.
Lawyers like flat fees for several reasons. First, they can use forms that they’ve already written – most estate planning lawyers have a set of standard clauses that they have registered for different situations, which they assemble into a will that fits a new client’s wishes. It won’t take a lawyer much time to put your document together, but the lawyer can charge for their expertise and experience with a flat fee. A flat fee means they don’t have to keep detailed records of how they spend their time, either.
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Finally, some lawyers feel that a flat fee arrangement lets everyone relax and makes for a better attorney-client relationship. You won’t feel reluctant to call or email with a question, and the lawyer can take the time necessary to listen to your concerns and explain things to you without feeling like the meter is running.
Lawyers don’t charge all of their clients the same flat fee. You’ll have to talk to a lawyer to find out what the cost will be for you—don’t expect to find a list of prices on the lawyer’s website. A conscientious lawyer does this not to hide the ball but because it’s impossible to know what you need without a conversation about your situation and wishes. Before quoting you a price, a good lawyer will talk to you (on the phone or in-person).
Some estate planning lawyers bill clients by the hour. Lawyers in big firms generally charge higher rates than sole practitioners or small firms unless a small firm is made up of lawyers specializing in sophisticated estate planning and tax matters. A lawyer who does nothing but estate planning will probably charge more than a general practitioner but should also be more knowledgeable and efficient. (See details of hourly fees reported by estate planning attorneys around the country.)
If your attorney employs less experienced lawyers (associates) or legal assistants (paralegals), their time should be billed at a lower hourly rate.
Many lawyers keep track of their time in six-minute increments (one-tenth of an hour). That means you’ll never be billed for less than six minutes of the lawyer’s time, even if the lawyer spends just two minutes on the phone with you.
More Than a Will: Estate Planning Packages
Most people end up paying a lawyer for more than a simple will. Many lawyers correctly advise clients to make a few other estate planning documents in addition to a will, including:
* Durable power of attorney for finances * Advance directive (durable power of attorney for health care and living will—these may or may not be combined into one document, depending on state law). This is good advice because every adult should have these durable powers of attorney. They give someone the authority to act on your behalf (always in your best interests) if you should become incapacitated—for example, because of an accident or unexpected serious illness. These are not complicated documents, and many states have their forms for the advance directive. But they’ll probably add a few hundred dollars to the bill. (See the results of this national survey on how much lawyers charge to prepare estate planning packages.)
A lawyer may also recommend a living trust, which will let your family avoid the expense and delay of probate court proceedings after your death. Not everyone needs a living trust, however. It depends on where you live (probate is more expensive in some states than others), how you own your assets (if you own everything jointly with your spouse, you may not need a trust now), and your age (younger people, generally, don’t need trusts).
Lawyers typically charge much more for a living trust than for a will, even though a simple living trust is a fairly standard document like a will.
One caveat: After your will has been properly signed and witnessed, you’re done. But after a living trust is drawn up and signed, you must change the title to assets you want to leave through the trust. Ensure whether the lawyer’s fee includes doing this work (called funding the trust) or not; if not, you’re responsible for getting this crucial step done.