Does anyone know what it would normally cost for a man and wife to have simple reciprocal Wills and General Powers of Attorney drawn up ?
I had this done and after receiving the bill I think that we "got taken" [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mad.gif[/img]
I just had POA done on my elderly mother who has ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). She can hardly talk, so I needed it just to speak with banks, credit card companies, etc. on the phone. I found an elderly law specialist subsidized by the state that charges according to income (hers). It didn't cost anything.
Not sure what a reciprocal will is. Is that the same as a living will?
I would recommend a "Living Trust" over a will. The Living Trust maintains the ability for the best tax breaks for a married couple, plus it keeps the estates out of probate/court. It differs state by state, but in California probate is in the public court records and there is a set fee scale by law (starts at something like and effective rate 10% of the estate (below $100,000) and slides down to 0.5% or so when in the millions of dollars). A person can change or close the trust at anytime (up until the last spouse dies). The only disadvantage for the Living Trust is that you must pay the attorney fees up front.
Here is a link to a law firm with some information on probate costs (not recommending them, I know nothing about the firm):
I would guess that here in California a Trust would cost a couple from $1,000-$3,000. I assume that a will would not be much different. (both should include mutual powers of attorneys, health care directives, and possibly changing titles on property to place them in the name of the trust, and such).
as a healthcare professional i recommend a health care power of attorney too. there is a new federal law hippa that is making it difficult for healthcare providers to share information with family members.
i haven't looked but there should be some basic forms on the web that would be fill in the blank and notorized.
Lux, a reciprocal will is a the mirror image of the other will. most commonly, husband leaves all to wife, wife leaves all to husband.
Bill, trusts aren't all that simple. make sure you have a good attorney. there are hidden taxes and other requirements (some must be irrevocable for instance) that may not be obvious.
Glenn, pm with a brief description of what you paid and what the bill said and i'll give you my opinion. briefly, a simple reciprocal will of a simple estate (nothing too large or complicated) might run $300-500. no reason for it to cost any more than that. there really isn't too much to it (at least not in most states).
BB and IvRn are are wise! My parents set up a living trust several years ago. My mother died last year, and shortly afterwards my father had to be institutionalised. I had to assume trusteeship. He passed away a month and a half ago, and and there's no probate. His estate became "revalued" as of then, so there are basically no taxes. I am in the process of dividing it between myself and my brothers. It avoids an awful lot of hassle.
Living Trusts are best done by an attorney (although, they are 90% boiler plate and it seems that you could do a knock-off of somebody else's if you wished). The only other thing you would need to do is place your bank accounts, stock accounts, house(s), credit card accounts, and such with the following ownership (the Bank will probably want to see the first page of the trust):
Bill Smith Trustee
Mary Smith Trustee
Smith Family Trust
Basically now, if one or both Bill and Mary are gone, there is still a legal entity (the Smith Family Trust) that can manage and disperse the assets as directed by the trust through the trustee. It is basically that simple (from what I have seen).
There is one thing that is a little bit pain in the butt with placing Smith Family Trust on the bank and stock accounts... The bank wants to protect itself so--in Etrade's case--they will not let me Internet Link my Etrade Bank and Etrade Stock Trading accounts. Other than that, it has not been a problem.
Basically, for a married couple the Living Trust "keeps the dead partner legally alive" until the second one dies. Then the estate is distributed according to the terms of the trust and the trustee (get somebody you trust to be the trustee--they can really do your family bad if they have the intent) and both tax exemptions are available to shelter the taxes. If the surviving spouse wishes to change the terms of the trust, revoke the trust or spend the money until there is none left--there is nothing stopping them. (There are several sections to a living trust other than the one that the Trustee would use, but those are there for legal purposes and don't have any real effects on the day to day use of the trust). There is really no down side to the living trust.
Otherwise, with a will what usually happens is the spouse inherits the estate (tax free?) and then when the last one dies, there is only one tax exemption available for the survivors to use (instead of two). Plus, the estate must go through probate (attorneys and courts) to be resolved.
Remember, there is a $600,000 or so (the limit is rising until around 2008 when death taxes go away--then the next year they come back at the ~1/2 million dollar per person level again).
Now, if you have a multi-million dollar estate, then you can look at various insurance and irrevocable trusts to help pass the estate to the kids and grand kids in a more tax efficient manner.
But for Estates of 1.2 million or less, the Living Trust is the way to go! An hour or so with the Attorney, they put the name of the Living Trust on your house, and give you a copy of the trust that you take to your banks and such change the account names to conform with the trust.