Trust Mills, Bargain Trusts and Do-It-Yourself

The living trust is being utilized more and more each day to assist in wealth preservation and private expeditious administration of one’s estate. The living trust is clearly one of the most important documents that a person will ever execute in his or her lifetime. This being the case, there are now countless individuals, businesses and “professionals” offering to prepare so called “bargain trusts” which promise to offer all of the advantages of a properly drafted living trust at greatly reduced prices. In fact, many non-lawyers and lawyers not devoting a substantial part of their practices to estate planning have attempted to capitalize on the craze by offering to prepare living trusts at bargain basement prices. Do not be fooled. A poorly written living trust can cause you just as much trouble, if not more, than not having a trust at all.

Additionally, there are countless computer software programs, internet web-sites and self help books that will assist anyone interested in preparing a do-it-yourself “one-size-fits-all” trust to protect and preserve one’s assets. Unfortunately, software programs may not reflect a particular state’s laws, cannot take into consideration each individual’s unique family situation and goals, and may lead to the future involvement of the Court in trust litigation. In fact, the current wave of trust litigation is a direct result of poorly written living trusts drafted by non-lawyers, lawyers inexperienced in estate planning and self-help “systems” and methods that have disastrous consequences. The fact is that although certain web-sites promote living trusts drafted in accordance with the laws of all 50 states, these web-sites are aimed at the goal of high volume sales. Can you really be assured that the documents drafted in such a way will carry out your intentions? What will you do if it does not? We believe that proper estate planning takes place with one-on-one contact with the client. The drafting process should be one where the client’s participation is essential to carry out his or her goals, intention and desires, but within the careful guidance of an estate planning professional.

Another danger that a prospective client must be concerned with is the high volume trust mill. These are typically organizations or law firms where non-lawyers perform the consulting and drafting. Typically, one’s dealings are primarily with a non-lawyer, with occasional contact with a lawyer in charge. These organizations are staffed with non-lawyer staff performing estate-planning functions. They typically use pre-printed form trusts where the names of different clients are changed and re-sold without specific tailoring to specific needs. There is no need for me to discuss the risks involved with this practice. The problems often occur after death and it is loved ones who suffer from trusts that are prepared in this way.

What you should look for when searching for an estate-planning lawyer is whether or not the lawyer has devoted a significant part of his practice to dealing with estate planning matters. Will the lawyer be actively involved in meeting with you to gather information necessary to preparing the estate plan? Will you be able to contact the lawyer whenever you have a question or concern? Will the lawyer assist you in funding your trust? Does the lawyer have significant experience in estate and tax planning matters? Will the lawyer be with you for the long term to assist you in maintaining your estate planning and amending it to reflect changes in circumstances or the law?

At the Law Offices of Jimmie L. Joe, we are highly experienced in handling estate planning for wealth preservation. In addition to being an attorney, Mr. Joe worked for several years as a Certified Public Accountant with the world’s largest international accounting firm, and has extensive experience as an attorney handling estate tax matters. Our fundamental approach is built around client service and delivery of the highest quality estate planning services available. We welcome all relevant inquiries and invite you to contact us to discuss helping you plan for the preservation and transfer of your assets.