Archive for January, 2011

Do-it-yourself Estate Planning

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Several clients have had do-it-yourself estate plans which included trusts that were intended to avoid probate.  Inevitably, each one has failed to accomplish this goal and has landed the family in the middle of probate court.  The problem with the do-it-yourself estate plan is that the formalities of creating the plan are not followed.  Most people are lured by the inexpensive software or package deal that is sold to hundreds of people with the false sense of security that the mere document is all that is needed.  Unfortunately, these people have wasted their money on a product that doesn’t accomplish their goals and end up having to pay for attorney fees and costs in probate.

Although executing an estate plan provides you with an orderly disposition of your estate, you will not avoid probate (assuming assets over $100,000) unless and until the trust obtains legal title to your property. This procedure is called “funding” the trust and requires transferring title to you as trustee. Title to assets you acquire in the future should also be put in the trust’s name.  If you take title to property in your own name at any time without subjecting it to the trust, the trust will not affect that property and may still be subject to probate even if you have a living trust.  During the initial creation of your estate plan, we will help you “fund” your living trust at no additional cost.

By having a well-drafted estate plan in place, you can feel confident that your estate will be distributed the way that you intended, minimizing estate taxes and saving your family the headache and heartache of going through a lengthy probate process.