I am way overdue to fix my estate. This whole trip to China caused me to revert to my military preparation programming. Anytime we got ready to deploy we always got that “talk” about making sure the paperwork was in order. Only this time I decided I would do something a little more thorough and potentially effective than a will. Sadly, my last will was something like 20 years ago.
I checked out my options and talked to some lawyer types. I decided to do a thorough (enough) review and fix my estate. Yes, I know I still freak out sometimes when I think about being in China. My mind still tells me there is something wrong with being in Communist country. Even now, almost 2 years after moving here, I get those weird and maybe crazy feelings that it is wrong to be here.
I guess there might be some that would call it the onset of anxiety or maybe even and anxiety attack. Nothing that is disabling mind you but it is kind of unsettling. I don’t KNOW if the Chinese are spying on me but I have am not surprised if they are. I believe that the car is bugged (you know the driver turns off the radio whenever we are talking – maybe he is just trying to be polite). I believe the house is bugged (we hope that there isn’t a camera but heck who knows). I am certain (KNOW – OK maybe that is too strong a word) that our email and internet usage is being monitored or actually copied and stored. I really wished that I was a spy so that I could really figure out how many ways they are really monitoring me. I guess it is probably better not to know.
Ok, back to my planning for being out of the country. I needed to get a better idea of what my options are and what they are going to cost me. Here is what I found out from my lawyer. It may be an over simplification of the difference between the pros and cons of a trust versus a will, but it should give you enough to make a decision.
Simple to draft.
Relatively inexpensive – usually $175-$200.
Probate. Wills have to pass through a process known as “probate” upon the death of the testator (person making the will). Depending on the value of the assets, probate can be very expensive to your heirs. Wyoming statutes set the fee for lawyers on probate at 2% of the value of the entire estate. This means if your total estate is worth $500k, your heirs pay $10,000 min. in attorneys fees.
Probate. Probate can take years to finalize in the court.
Wills must be destroyed if you change your mind on disposition of assets to heirs. A new will needs to be drafted if you want something different or your circumstances change.
Easily changed. Settlor (person making the trust) can do an amendment to the trust.
No probate. Because the assets were “given away” prior to the death of the settlor there is no need for probate.
No probate expenses.
Usually more complex than a will to draft. Cost $900 and up depending on the complexity. I have had very few trusts cost more than $900.
There are various types of trusts depending on the extent of your wealth. Larger estate plans may call for a combination of trusts and limited partnerships in order to avoid estate takes.
I did end up with a trust. I am quite happy about it. There are some other downsides to a trust that I didn’t know about. The taxman treats those trusts a little but I think I can navigate those challenges now much better than having my posterity trying to navigate them later. It is a small sacrifice in the long run in my opinion.
Now if I can just get used to being spied upon.