The Real Cost of “Trust”s

A recent Google search on the cost of a trust, has brought questions to us regarding our fees. Google cites an article from LegalZoom, an online document preparation service. I encourage you to read the article, but I need to warn you of a few pieces that the article either skims over or disregards completely.

The true cost to have an attorney draft a revocable living trust can range from $800 to $3,000 for individuals, and between $1,100 and $5,000 to $10,000 for married couples. These are not estimates. These are the costs I have found through personal research, locally, and through talking to clients and attorneys in other states. Personally, I have charged between $800 and $1,800 for individuals, and between $1,200 and $3,500 for couples.


What’s included for that price?
This is the main question and is skimmed over! This should be the most important follow up question. Otherwise, how do you compare apples to apples? Included with the cost I quote, I include a pour over will, a general durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a HIPAA authorization, and the advance directive to physicians and family.


The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
~ Benjamin Franklin


Most estate plans that include a trust will also include the others that I mentioned above. Those are the most common documents that most everyone needs for an estate plan. But let’s consider what’s missing. I’ll give you an example from a real client that I helped fix things after they’d moved a couple times since they had their estate plan done.


Let’s call the client Bill Johnson (not a real client). Bill came in because he paid $800.00 at a financial planning workshop to have an attorney draft his Revocable Living Trust. Bill spoke with the attorney at the workshop, filled out a questionnaire and paid with a credit card that night to receive a “discount.” Three weeks later Bill received his beautifully bound Trust documents, complete with instructions.


However, Bill, not fluent in Legalese, struggled to understand exactly what he was supposed to do in order to fund his trust. His instructions told him to sign the documents in front of a notary, and to fund his trust. Bill called the attorney that drafted the documents and the receptionist told him. “I’m sorry Mr. Johnson, the attorney only drafts the documents, he doesn’t answer any questions. If you would like to speak to him about your trust you will need to pay his hourly fee of $300.00 per hour to discuss the terms or to answer your questions.”

Confused and very frustrated, Bill hung up and searched online until he found me. Bill came in to see me, still frustrated about his purchase. Bill had the documents he needed, but no idea what to do with them. He was willing to start over, pay me the full fee to do the estate plan correctly and get it set up as it should be. After a free consultation, I showed him how to fund his trust step by step as well as created an Amendment to his trust as it still didn’t fit his needs, and created a deed to move his home into the trust. I charged Bill $500, and he gained true peace of mind.

What is missing from the article?
How and when will you know it is not done correctly? Unless your situation is like Bill’s above, you might not know there are problems until it’s too late to make a change. If you do it yourself, or try to skimp on price to save a couple bucks, chances are that you’ll end up like Bill, or worse. I had another gentleman come to me saying that his parents had a trust and it was terrible because they never transferred their assets into their trust before they died. Their wills poured everything over to the trust, so in order to get assets out of his parents’ name, and over to him and his siblings, he had to spend thousands in court and attorney fees and wait months for the court process. This was all because his parents chose to save a few hundred dollars in the beginning.


The short answer.
You need to have an estate planning attorney actually discuss your unique situation with you and develop the estate plan you truly need. The true cost of setting up a trust varies wildly based on the specific needs of the client.


Here at Butler Law Office, delivering signed documents to our clients isn’t where our services end. Our staff works with banking institutions, Life insurance agents, and other financial service professionals to ensure our client’s assets are moved into their trusts accurately. In fact, some clients walk in with a binder full of papers, dump them on the conference table and say “HELP”. We shuffle through the papers, make a list, jump on the phone and get to work.


Ultimately, question you should ask yourself is:
“What is the Cost of Real Trust?

By: Jeffery L. Butler