A writer for the New York newspaper the Times Herald-Record commented Monday on the cost savings from using living trusts as vehicles for disposing of an estate and avoiding probate.
Since 1991, the article noted, a living trust has been a better bet in that state because of attorneys' high fees for probating - topping 3% of the gross estate.
Not so in Georgia.
Here, a typical represented probate case costs between $1,000 and $2,000 in attorney fees. And many estates can be successfully probated without the need for attorney representation. I have learned that other state bars' practice of charging a set precentage of the estate size is the product of what can be characterized as legalized price setting. That is, the state bar as a whole dictates the fee, and all attorneys must take it.
So living trusts are often not the cheapest route to handling an estate in Georgia.
But are they ever called for?
The article above-cited states a reason they may be. It notes that disinherited heirs (say, children) need not be given notice of a trust's operation, whereas probate of a will contains a notice requirement. So, if you want to disinherit your children, the argument seems to go, prefer a trust because you won't have to send them a ticket to an estate contest by certified mail.
Frankly, that reasoning sounds too clever by half. It is the rare disinherited child that doesn't know of his or her parent's death and estate disposition, and trusts can be challenged in court every bit the same as wills can.
A recent case handled by Tanner Pittman, LLC, however, may show a prominent exception in which a living trust could serve as a device to protect the estate. In that case, the disinherited challenger to the will was a distant half-sister who had not seen the testatrix in years. In that case, it was in fact the statutory notice requirement of probate sent to this half-sister that kicked off the will challenge. Had a living trust been drafted, it's possible expensive probate litigation could have been avoided.
Tanner Pittman, LLC drafts living trusts, wills, and other complex estate planning documents, and our firm is prepared to advise clients on whether a trust or a will is the best device for carrying out their estate planning needs.
Tanner Pittman, LLC is a West Georgia law firm that specializes in estate services, civil litigation, and legal transactions.
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