Trust Settlement Guidance: A Practical & Affordable Approach


Affordable Trust Settlement Guidance

For over 25 years Affordable Living Trusts has earned a reputation for providing high quality Living Trusts at reasonable prices. What some may not be aware of is that we also offer affordable Trust Settlement Guidance that is generally priced far below that of trust settlement services offered elsewhere.

You Do Have a Choice

It is an unfortunate, common and often costly misperception that you must return to the same law office that drafted the trust and blindly pay what often amounts to very high charges to settle the trust. You are, in fact, free to seek help anywhere and by doing a little comparison shopping you can often save many thousands of dollars.

Beware That Some Law Offices are Charging Over $25,000!

Though trust settlement charges come in many shapes and sizes we know of numerous instances of $25,000 plus charges involving extended settlement times (over a year) for administering even a simple, straightforward, uncontested, modestly valued trust estate. To be fair, not everyone is charging that much, but clients often tell us of quotes ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000. What’s troubling is that far too many are coming in at the higher ranges (and even above). By comparison, our average charge has been around $1,000. This should at least give anyone pause to do some investigation as to your choices.

Do you want a guidance-based approach or a lengthy probate-like approach?

You should begin any comparison by first understanding that, necessary or not, many law offices take very lawyer-intense, probate-like approaches toward trust settlement that involve time-consuming, full, formal representation from start to finish. Such approaches tend to be very bureaucratic, take a long time to settle, and of course usually end up being very expensive. To many, this seems almost the antithesis of what a trust is supposed to be about and we tend to agree.

Is such an approach required? NO!

We’ve guided thousands of trustees to successful trust settlement.

In our experience, with some guidance and documentation, most trustees have little problem understanding the issues and attending to most matters. So instead of a heavy-handed approach we try to stay true to what we believe was the original intent behind trusts by embracing a philosophy of keeping the family and their chosen representative as the proper conduit for handling routine matters rather than charging high attorney fees for performing the very tasks most trustees are fully capable of handling themselves. Not only has this approach allowed us to guide thousands of trustees and families towards very successfully settling their trusts, we also regularly receive comments about how easily things worked out.

It is not just an alternative approach to trust settlement, it is a logical one.

In settling a trust our philosophy is that it makes the most sense to first ask questions; understand and evaluate matters; and see what is involved before plunging headlong into costly, probate-like attorney representation, for which most ultimately find little need. In fact, after helping thousands of trustees, only a relative few (due to unusual circumstances) have ended up needing greater lawyer involvement. Yet even in that small minority of cases it is important to understand that our services still generally resulted in substantially lower overall legal fees. That’s because once the basics have been covered and the trustees have some understanding of matters, they are better able to limit and focus the scope of the representation (rather than paying heavy fees for routine services).

 In the end, it’s up to the family to take advantage of the living trust’s potential!

Absent unusual circumstances, living trusts do provide the potential to minimize lawyer involvement and expenses; to keep the family in control (and the government, lawyers, and courts out of the process); and to speed up and simplify distribution of the estate. While some approaches seem to lose sight of these principles, ours is meant to help the survivors and the families realize that intended potential, not squander it. The choice is yours!

Our guidance-based approach consists of:

Meeting with the trustee, gathering information, explaining the processes and helping the trustee develop a roadmap for settling the trust.
This also includes a legal and practical overview outlining the general duties, tasks, and fiduciary responsibilities in administering the trust and how, when, and why to selectively use other kinds of professionals, such as a CPA experienced in working with trusts to help the trustee efficiently and economically administer the estate.

Preparing General Affidavits & Real Estate Affidavits:
The true power of a living trust is that it facilitates the near instantaneous legal transfer of signature and management power to the pre-designated successor trustee. Yet this transition of signature power does not occur in a vacuum as it does require some minimal documentation; more specifically, properly drafted and documented “Affidavits Death of Trustee.” This critical component is part of the service that we provide and consists of two different types of affidavits along with the necessary supporting documents.

General Affidavits:
First, we prepare General Affidavits which usually suffice for gaining immediate access and signature power for bank, brokerage and other types of accounts.

Real Estate Affidavits:
We also prepare separate Real Estate Affidavits for each real estate property that must then be recorded in the appropriate county. Until this is done the successor trustee is generally powerless to act on the property. To record the affidavit also requires a properly completed Change of Ownership form which the Assessor uses to preliminarily determine whether the property is exempt from reassessment. These kinds of Affidavits and recording forms are best prepared by an attorney because they must be drafted in a recordable format, contain the proper wording with supporting documentation, and help stave off any issues of property tax reassessment.