You can make your own living trust online very easily. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this subject, a trust allows you to control who receives your assets after you die. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A living trust also helps your beneficiaries avoid the expense and delay of probate that is normally associated with wills. If you don’t have a proper trust, the court will decide how to split up your assets. (Read What is probate?) This process can last a year or even longer. It can also devour a huge portion of your estate’s value in legal fees.
Living trusts can also give you more privacy than a will because you don’t have to register them with the courts in probate. Depending on the situation, a living trust can help you avoid certain estate taxes (if it’s done right). This one step alone could help save a fortune on life insurance.
Last, if you become incapacitated, a living trust allows you to appoint someone else to manage your financial and legal affairs. As you can see, the living trust could really be a great tool for you.
You can hire an attorney to create a trust for you of course. That could run between $1,000 and $5,000 (or more). If you have a very tricky situation, that might be the way to go. But if your situation is straightforward, you should consider making your own living trust online. If you do, you could save 85% of this cost.
Of the companies that currently provide this service, I like LegalZoom best. They have a very simple questionnaire that takes less than 15 minutes to complete. They also have live human telephone support – a rare thing these days – in case you have questions.
Neal’s Notes: Once you create your trust, remember to update it as required. This is not a “set it and forget it” enterprise. Over time, your situation changes and/or the laws change. It’s smart to update your trust every three to five years.
I went through some of the questions and help screens. I have to admit that I got a better explanation from LegalZoom than I usually do from attorneys when I speak to them on behalf of some of my clients.
I like the fact that Robert Shapiro is behind this enterprise – a top-notch attorney with a reputation to protect. The laws change all the time and I expect the site to update their trust program regularly. I feel more comfortable knowing that Mr. Shapiro has a lot to lose if he doesn’t keep the information up-to-date.
The biggest issue is how to know if your situation is straightforward or not. This is very subjective. As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask, your situation is probably complicated. In that case, it makes sense to seek the advice of a qualified attorney.
Have you done your trust online? What resources did you use? Would you recommend Legal Zoom? Someone else?