Q: You often write about the benefits that creating a simple living trust can provide to homeowners. However, my friend says that only millionaires need to form a trust. Who is right?
A: Most homeowners, regardless of their net wealth or annual income, can benefit by forming a simple and inexpensive living trust.
Although creating a living trust can provide numerous advantages, its two most important are clear. First, a trust's assets aren't subject to long and costly probate proceedings that heirs named in a common will must endure. And second, creating a trust now will let your spouse, or someone else that you pre-select, quickly step in and take care of your personal financial affairs if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
Many years ago, most living trusts were formed by millionaires because they were the only ones who were able to afford high-priced attorneys. Creating a living trust was a cumbersome and time-consuming task that only lawyers could understand.
Today, however, most of the same forms that attorneys and estate planners once charged tens of thousands of dollars to prepare now can be purchased over the Internet or at business-supply stores for less than $50. Two computer stores I visited last week offered simple software programs that can help people produce both a trust and a will for a mere $29.
Thanks to such breakthroughs, millions of middle-class homeowners now can reap the same benefits by creating a trust that only rich people could afford to make several years ago.