Dear Harry: I went to a Web site that discussed wills and trusts. Then I went to an advertiser's site that said they could save me about $15,000 in taxes and fees by going for their package on living trusts. Their fee is $498 for a do-it-yourself trust and a will. We have a combined estate of about $550,000. I'm leery of their claim because they asked almost nothing about the type of assets we have or who we want as heirs. They did ask where we live (Pennsylvania) and how old we are. It seems to me that the living-trust idea is publicized every few years, and a lot of people go for it. With our size estate, could we really save that $15,000?
What Harry says: Very unlikely. A living trust for an estate of your size will save probate costs. These include legal fees as well as the costs of probate. In our state, these will be relatively small. The state will not allow a trust to own some assets such as an automobile, works of art, and personal effects. In addition, there's the pain in the neck of having to re-title assets into the trust's name. The offer you're getting is little more than you could get from any number of books available for about $25. You'll both need wills in any event, and a will can do what you need without the extra costs of a living trust. Then there's always the problem of their package not being specific to Pennsylvania.
Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood: Contact the American Red Cross at 800-GIVE LIFE.