Living Trusts... Continued

Laws vary significantly from state to state. A tool which may simplify one's affairs in one state, may increase tax or probate liabilities, or create other needless complications, in another state.  For these reasons, the unique circumstances of the individual determine whether or not a particular estate planning tool is advantageous.  No tool is for everyone.
            In Pennsylvania probate fees are nominal. For example, in Columbia County, the probate fee on a one-million dollar estate is $411.00.  The fee is even smaller for estates of less value.  For that reason, it is rarely advisable for Pennsylvania residents to incur significant expenses just to avoid probate. In Pennsylvania, the larger expense is through Inheritance Tax which is frequently imposed on trusts as well as estates. A typical "living trust" does not avoid Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax and may not fully protect assets in the event that nursing home care becomes necessary. In order to avoid Pennsylvania Inheritance Taxes or to shield assets from nursing home expenses a trust must be irrevocable; that is, the assets cannot ever be removed from the trust. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the amount of paperwork involved in settling an estate and a trust is comparable. For this reason, the existence of a trust seldom results in a significant reduction in legal fees.
            A "one size fits all" approach is very dangerous in this situation.  Advice tailored to the individual is essential. While self-help materials can be excellent sources of educational information as to estate planning options, the safe implementation of those options requires the prior advice of a qualified professional.
            Frequently, self-help materials such as "living trusts" are sold at a substantial price. Sometimes these packets charge more for "one size fits all" documents than the individual would pay to have the documents tailor-made. 

Everyone should consult with their own attorney and/or accountant before purchasing expensive "living trust" packets or implementing self-help measures. In the consultation, you should ask exactly what estate planning documents are needed in your particular case.  Your should also obtain an estimate for the custom preparation of those necessary estate planning documents. Quite often, an hour's consultation with a qualified professional can avoid unnecessary expense and needless heartache. Attorney Pealer will gladly meet with you to discuss these matters.