With all those commercials touting the benefits of a living trust versus probate, you may wonder if you should invest in the former to avoid the latter. After all, probate is “costly,” “time-consuming” and “public.”
According to FindLaw, a living trust is rarely a favorable alternative to probate. In fact, the publication warns against using a living trust unless you have an estate tax problem, and even then, there exist other vehicles you can use to avoid inheritance taxes. If you are not convinced, consider the following points.
A trust is not easier than probate
Many people buy into the whole living trust idea because of the promise to avoid probate. Yet, those people rarely take time to consider that what they replace probate with may be far worse.
Probate takes just a few months to complete, assuming you have a detailed and up-to-date will in place. When you use a trust, however, you must maintain it for the rest of your life. If you fail to do so (which many people do), much of your estate will have to go through probate anyway.
Maintaining a trust is difficult and time-consuming, and it is not uncommon for owners to get frustrated with the process and cease to fund their trusts. This leaves them out of a bunch of money and forced to manage the assets both in their trust and at risk for probate.
A trust can be more expensive than probate
Assuming you have an “average” estate (house, car, bank accounts) and no problem areas, probate should cost you more than $1,500 to $2,500. The cost can, of course, fluctuate depending on a number of factors but, in general, probate is not that expensive.
Maintaining and funding a trust, on the other hand, is. To maintain a trust for the rest of their lives, most people shell out just as much as, if not more than, the average cost of probate. Not only do they not save money but also, they must change their lifestyles, as they must continue to fund the trust and refrain from using the assets. If they mess up anywhere along the way, they will have to pay for probate anyway.
Hiding your assets is overrated
Many people tout the fact that trusts can keep your assets hidden from prying eyes. While this is true, you would need to pay significant money to an attorney to stay on top of your trust, thereby guaranteeing you will pay more than the average probate costs. If this is your reason for wanting to go the living trust route, ask yourself, are people really going to pry into your family’s affairs once your gone? Chances are, the answer is no.