Creating a simple trust could cost $300 or less through an app or digital service
Having a lawyer create a trust for larger or more complicated estates could cost you $3,000 or more in some places
Consider drafting other estate planning documents — like a will or power of attorney — at the same time as your trust
A trust is a legal entity that you transfer ownership of your assets to, perhaps in order to decrease the value of your estate or to simplify passing on assets to your intended beneficiaries after you die.
An estate planning attorney may charge at least $1,000 to create a trust for you. However, you can create a trust with the Policygenius app for just $280 when you purchase the Plus package. Ths Plus package also includes a will.
The tools in the Policygenius app are vetted by real attorneys to ensure the accuracy and validity of your trust document. Trusts can become complicated and a small mistake could mean your wishes for the trust assets aren’t carried out after you die.
For some assets you transfer into a trust, you may also pay filing fees for changing the name on a title, deed, registration, or license. Also consider management costs, like the cost of an accountant to file an annual tax return for the trust.
Related article: When to use an estate lawyer instead making a trust yourself
The cost to create a trust can vary significantly based on multiple factors. One major factor is where you live. Estate planning lawyers generally charge more in metropolitan areas than in less-populated areas. Lawyers with more experience or additional areas of expertise will also charge more.
Here are some potential reasons you’ll pay more to set up a trust:
You have a large or wealthy estate with many assets to transfer into the trust. The more assets you need to transfer into your trust, the more you’ll probably pay. Planning for jointly owned assets can also add a layer of complexity.
However, you don't need to be wealthy to benefit from a trust. A trust can be an essential part of any estate plan because it helps direct assets to your heirs according to terms you set out in the trust document.
You’re leaving assets to many beneficiaries. Certain situations may also be more complex (and expensive) than others, like if you add stipulations for how and when someone can receive the trust assets. This includes trust funds, which are trusts that distribute assets over a period of time.
Leaving assets to a business or creating a charitable trust can also require extra planning and legal work.
Planning for certain beneficiaries may prove more complicated, such as someone with disabilities or someone who is in the care of a legal guardian. (Learn more about special-needs trusts.)
You want to create a trust through your will. Called a testamentary trust, this type of trust won’t be created and funded until after you die. Drafting the trust document may require more planning than a living trust. You may also need a lawyer to create or adjust your will, which will cost more.
You want to create an irrevocable trust. An irrevocable trust is one that generally cannot be changed or closed once you create it. It does offer certain advantages, like asset protection from creditors or lawsuits, but it’s good to talk with an estate lawyer to ensure the irrevocable trust is the best estate planning option for your situation.
You want to draft other estate planning documents. It is nice to have one lawyer or one law firm draft all your necessary estate planning documents if possible. Certain documents may also work best if made in conjunction, like making a revocable living trust with a pour-over will.
Any additional legal advice, like how to minimize estate tax or handle business succession will also cost you more.
Learn more: How much does an estate planning lawyer cost?
The cost of a trust goes beyond just the creation of a trust agreement. Transferring ownership of assets to the trust may require paying filing fees. For example, you may need to pay a one-time fee to your county clerk to update the deed for a real estate property. Updating a car’s registration likely requires paying a fee to your DMV. These fees are usually small but add up if you have many assets. If you’re transferring jointly owned assets, that may require more time and planning, even if the final cost is the same.
Trust management is also necessary for as long as the trust exists. Naming yourself as trustee is likely the lowest cost option, but you still need to name a successor trustee who will handle the trust after your death. That could mean just trust administration — disbursing assets to beneficiaries after you die — but management could last for years if you have beneficiaries who won’t immediately receive their assets. Any other management expenses — like renewing registrations or filing annual income tax returns — will probably come out of the trust, decreasing the trust’s value and simply taking time.
You could also hire a corporate trustee to manage your trust instead of naming yourself trustee. Corporate trustees are financial institutions that manage trusts and this option would significantly increase the cost of trust management.
In a worst case scenario, like if you create a trust yourself and later realize there’s a mistake, you may need to update your trust document. If you need legal help with this, hiring a lawyer will of course increase your overall costs.
Trusts and wills are both legal documents that help you dictate who gets your assets after you die. A will is an essential document in your estate plan, but a trust may not be necessary for everyone. For example, a will may be enough for you if you don’t have much to pass on or if you’re bequeathing everything to just one or two people.
Certain types of trusts do offer distinct advantages though, like decreasing the value of your estate — potentially allowing you to qualify for income-restricted programs, like Medicaid. After death, a trust usually allows your loved ones to avoid the probate process, where a probate court determines who will get your things. A strong will can make probate smoother, but a trust can still offer more of a guarantee that your exact wishes are followed.
Learn more with our article on trusts vs wills.
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About the author
Derek is a tax expert at Policygenius in New York City. He has written about multiple personal finance topics in the past, and his work has been covered by Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider and CNBC.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.
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