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10 Things You Should Know About Living Trusts

Many boomers are choosing a trust over a will, but the price can be steep

living will

— Hans Bernhard Huber/laif/Redux

Who are the trustees?

Any mentally competent adult may be named trustee. "Normally, you will name yourself and your spouse as trustees," says Condon. "That's because you want full control of the property while you're alive." If you become too ill or disabled to manage your property, your co-trustee or successor trustee will do this for you.

Normally, you would name your children as successor trustees, says Condon. "However, if you're not confident that your children would distribute the assets according to your instructions, you should name a professional fiduciary as your successor trustee. This could be the trust department of a bank, a professional trust company or a private fiduciary."

Do I have to put a lot of money in a living trust at the start?

"Except for a token dollar amount, it isn't necessary to fund a living trust when it is created," says Bogar. "You can fund your trust with as little as a dollar or as much as every asset you own. You can even specify in your will that your trust is to be funded only upon your death. There are advantages to each choice, depending on your needs and concerns."

Will a living trust require a lot of additional work and cost if I add or delete property or investments?

"No," says Condon. "You do not have to see your lawyer when your assets change."

Do I need an attorney to prepare a living trust?

"Yes," says Bogar. "I can tell you horror stories of poorly drafted trusts. You don't want to be your own doctor. It follows that you don't want to be your own lawyer."

Be cautious about using generic or online living trust kits that claim to be customized documents prepared by an attorney.

How much does it cost to set up a living trust?

The price could be all over the map depending on the attorney used, the complexity and size of the assets and the geographic area. The fee could be as little as a few hundred dollars, but more typically runs several thousand or more.

So is a revocable living trust right for me?

It's not right for everyone, experts agree. You should weigh the advantages and disadvantages. For simple estates with few assets and investments, it may not be worthwhile, since setting up a trust usually involves more expense than a will. Consultation with a qualified financial adviser should help you decide.

William J. Lynott is an author and freelance writer who specializes in business and financial issues.

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