Online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Practice Areas

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, using strategies appropriate to each situation — from the basic to the most complex.

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Veterans Pension/Aid & Attendance

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, using strategies appropriate to each situation — from the basic to the most complex.

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Probate & Estate Administration

Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of wills, trusts and other estate planning documents, using strategies appropriate to each situation — from the basic to the most complex.

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Estate Planning


Click Here for the PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION FAQ
Click Here for the VETERANS AID & ATTENDANCE (NON SERVICE CONNECTED IMPROVED PENSION) FAQ

Easy to understand, plain English, FREE REPORT, to guide you through the most common questions surrounding estate planning; The Price of Organization, Rewards, Gifts, and Wondrous Tax ThingsFREE REPORT

  1. What is Estate Planning

  2. What Does a Proper Estate Plan Include?

  3. When Should an Estate Plan be Reviewed?

  4. Trusts — What Are They?

  5. What Benefits Does a Trust Offer?

  6. Who Can Benefit from a Trust?

  7. What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will or Trust?

  8. If a Person Has a Living Trust, Are There Still Loose Ends to Tie Up When He or She Dies and Does it Still Take Time to Settle the Estate?

  9. Does it Really Take less Time to Settle an Estate in Which a Living Trust Was Used Rather than Just a Will?

  10. Does it Really Cost less to Settle an Estate in Which a Living Trust Was Used Rather than Just a Will?

  11. What Other Probate Avoiding Techniques Are There in Addition to Living Trusts?

  12. Should I Do It Myself Without An Attorney or:
    What’s The Difference Between A Valid Trust and An Effective One?

  13. My Child Is Married and I Don’t Trust His Spouse. How Can He Keep His Inheritance Out of Her Grasp Just In Case They Get a Divorce?

  14. Does an A-B Living Trust Have Any Disadvantages?

  15. If I Have More than the Federal Estate Tax Equivalent
    ($675,000 in 2000), Is an A-B Trust Utopia ?

  16. How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney
    When Moving To A New State/City?

  17. Questions To Ask To Determine If An Estate
    Planning Attorney Is Really Competent

  18. Does It Matter If the Attorney Has His Main Office In Another City?
    -Estate Planning 

  19. Does It Matter If the Attorney Has His Main Office In Another City?
    — Estate Administration

  20. How Do Attorneys Charge?

  21. Should You Hire a Typist a Paralegal or an Attorney?

  22. What About Living Trust Sales Operations That Use Consultants?

  23. Should I Hire Mr. Miller To Do My Trust Although I Live In Another State?

  24. Articles & Columns on Living Trusts, How to Organize, &
    the Advantages of Charitable Giving Now Available in Book Format. 

  1. What Is Estate Planning?
    Put in its most simple terms, estate planning involves putting your affairs in order so as to maximize the benefits that your assets can provide to you during your life and to those you desire to benefit from it after your death.

    Estate planning is a process that has three objectives in mind:
    »   To insure that your assets will pass at your demise to those persons you      designate in a manner which will give them the maximum benefits;
    »   To reduce or eliminate the tax burden on your estate;
    »   To provide for the passing of your assets at your demise to your chosen       beneficiaries without the necessity of probate and without its costs, time delays,       and inconveniences.

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  2. What Does A Proper Estate Plan Include?
    A proper estate plan to provide for the needs of your family may include:
    »   An adequate Will or Trust;
    »   A written agreement concerning the status of your assets;
    »   A directive to your physician or a Durable Power of Attorney;
    »   Final instructions of your preference.

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  3. When Should An Estate Plan Be Reviewed?
    If you already have an estate plan, it should not be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every two-three years but, additionally, any important change in your life demands immediate review. These changes might include:
    »   Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary;
    »   Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary;
    »   Substantial change in the type of your assets;
    »   Purchase or sale of a business;
    »   Change of residence to another state;
    »   Change in tax law.

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  4. Trusts-What Are They?
    A trust document is an agreement between three people dealing with assets.
    »   The Trustor is the creator of the arrangement who appoints a
    »   Trustee to hold the legal title to the subject assets for the benefit of
    »   the Beneficiary.
    Although there are certain legal limitations, it is possible for the Trustor and Beneficiary to be the same person and is even possible for the trustor to serve as his own Trustee. In some situations, Trustors may wish a bank or other entity to serve as the Trustee.

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  5. What Benefits Does A Trust Offer?
    Trusts offer a number of important benefits:
    »   Probate Avoidance;
    »   Capital Gain Tax Savings;
    »   Retention of privacy of family assets and finances;
    »   Avoidance of conservatorship;
    »   Creditor protection for your beneficiaries;
    »   Control of distribution and management of assets during life and after death;
    »   Death tax avoidance or reduction.

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  6. Who Can Benefit From A Trust?
    In larger estates where tax savings are an important consideration, the use of trusts may play a paramount role. Even relatively small estates can usually benefit from the probate avoidance offered by a Trust. Oftentimes, individuals do not realize just how large their estate is. This is especially true since all assets owned or in which one has an interest is included, such as:

    »   Life insurance;
    »   Joint tenancy or community property holdings;
    »   Business interests.

    A Trust can be designed to meet the needs of a large or small estate. Its cost is a fraction of what the avoided probate expense or estate tax would have been.

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  7. What Happens If You Do Not Have A Will Or A Trust?
    If you do not have a Will or a Trust and have not used other probate-avoiding techniques, upon your death your assets will pass according to the laws of the state which has jurisdiction over your assets. The “state plan” may not provide for those you desire to obtain your assets, and if it does, often presents several of the following problems:

    »   Higher estate taxes;
    »   Additional inconvenience and expense (probate expenses run from 2 1/2% to 5%  and more of the value of the assets- see Probate Cost Chart );
    »   Necessity of guardianship for assets inherited by minor children with rules probably not designed to accomplish your goals.

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  8. If a Person Has a Living Trust, Are There Still Loose Ends to Tie Up When He or She Dies and Does it Still Take Time to Settle the Estate?
    Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, the truth is there are always at least some loose ends to tie up when a person dies. Estate Planning Myths and What The Hucksters Don’t Tell You. No matter how simple the estate, there are always some loose ends to tie up. This is what we call “Estate Administration.”  If the person’s assets are worth more than $1,500,000 at death there are substantial loose ends to tie up including the filing of a Federal Estate Tax Return and the possible payment of an estate (death) tax. Estates of this size generally take at least 10-12 months to settle (assuming a friendly family situation and no significant complications). If the person’s assets are worth less than $1,500,000 at death, there are usually substantially less loose ends and settlement often times takes 4-8 weeks (but see FAQ # 9 below.)

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  9. Does it Really Take less Time to Settle an Estate in Which a Living Trust Was Used Rather than Just a Will?
    As stated in the previous question, estates of more than $1,500,000 with a Living Trust typically take 10-12 months to settle. If just a Will were used, Probate is very often required to settle the estate and this court process will typically take 15-20 months. In smaller estates with a Living Trust, 4-8 weeks used to be typical. Unfortunately (or fortunately), depending upon how you look at it, the California legislature recently passed a law requiring all trust beneficiaries and heirs of a decedent to be sent a specific notice and giving them four months (but in certain cases 6 months) to contest the trust. So now, it still generally takes 4-8 weeks to complete the substantive efforts to settle the estate, but the estate must stay open until the contest period has run its course. If Probate is required 10-14 months is fairly standard.  All of this process is referred to as “Estate Administration.”

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  10. Does it Really Cost less to Settle an Estate in Which a Living Trust Was Used Rather than Just a Will?
    If just a Will was used, Probate Court proceedings are often necessary to settle the estate. Probate is a very formal and organized process. The more formal and organized a process, the more complicated it typically becomes and the expense usually increases accordingly. Probate fees in California are governed by statute. Statutory fees for the Attorney and the Executor are computed by formula (see Probate Fee Chart) but for estates up to $1 million can be approximated as 2% of the gross value of the Probate estate plus $3000 for each of them. In Probate estates where estate tax returns must be filed or where A-B Trusts were used, court approved extraordinary fees in addition to the statutory fees are common. If a Living Trust is used, Probate is usually avoided and attorney fees are typically less than they would be in Probate. Estimates of the national average for settling estates larger than $1 million outside the Probate Court system run in the 1.5% range of the estate value.  All of this process is referred to as “Estate Administration.”

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  11. What Other Probate Avoiding Techniques Are There in Addition to Living Trusts?
    The following methods are often used to avoid probate (sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it is counterproductive): joint tenancy title, community property title, bank account trusts, pay on death accounts, life insurance proceeds, retirement proceeds (IRA’S, TSA’S, 401K’s, etc.), retirement plans, gifts made during life, revocable grant deeds. Each technique has its own ramifications for tax and other issues. As with everything else, there can be no “one right way” in all situations.

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  12. Should I Do It Myself Without An Attorney or:
    What’s The Difference Between A Valid Trust and An Effective One?
    A valid Trust is one which the law will recognize. It is not particularly difficult to write a valid trust. You can probably obtain one at the local bookstore as they generally have many paperback books dealing with the subject of Trusts. Some of these usually have tear out fill-in-the-blank forms. The cost of these books is often in the range of $19.95. Although I’ve never really checked, there’s a good probability that at least some of these forms would be valid, once completed and signed. Of course, there is also computer software available for relatively low prices that promises to help you complete your own trust and I’ve often seen ads in magazines for the “mail-order” trust at approximately $24.95. The latter is often touted as valid in all 50 states! (I don’t know about you, but I only live in one state and the legislature here is constantly changing it’s laws. I’d guess the legislatures in the other 49 states are doing pretty much the same thing. So whatever document is “valid” today may need to be changed tomorrow!) And then, in this geographic area, we have a mobile paralegal who will actually come to your home to do a Living Trust for you for approximately $250. Or the attorney who advertises “Why pay more?” and will do a Living Trust for approximately $395. Again, I’ve really never checked, but let’s give all of them the benefit of the doubt and say they are all valid trusts.

    On the other hand, an “effective” trust is far different. It is not only valid but it also has the goal of being designed to get done in your particular situation what needs to be done in as efficient and effective manner as possible. See my articles: Father Wants Flexible and Low Cost Living Trust
    Buy Advice, Not Forms

    In other words, although the ultimate output you obtain from your estate planning attorney is often what appears to be just paperwork and forms, what you are really getting is his advice and recommendations to use this particular technique or that alternative. His value may not be as obvious as that of the attorney who fights for you in the court room, but it is just as real. For example, he may recommend that instead of leaving your eldest child his inheritance outright it might be better to give him his inheritance in the form of a lifetime trust for creditor protection or a myriad of other reasons. Or he might suggest that you transfer ownership (not just the beneficiary designation of your life insurance) to your children now rather than waiting until you die because such a transfer could save as much as 48% of the insurance death proceeds from death tax. (That’s right; life insurance is generally free from income tax, but not death tax.) And all of these recommendations will be made based not only on his education but, also, on his past experience of dealing with other families and individuals and seeing thousands of other situations. So the more experienced and competent your attorney is, generally the better his questions to you will be, the better his follow up questions to your initial answers will be, and the better his recommendations to you will be. (See “How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney When Moving To A New State/City?” and“Questions To Ask To Determine If An Estate Planning Attorney Is Really Competent.” No book or computer software can do this and I doubt that the mobile paralegal or the rock bottom priced attorney can either.

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  13. My Child Is Married and I Don’t Trust His Spouse. How Can He Keep His Inheritance Out of Her Grasp Just In Case They Get a Divorce?
    Under California law, inheritances are the separate property of your child and not community property. ( Please note that if your child does not live in California, often times the law of the state where your child resides would control this issue.) So his spouse has no rights in or to the inheritance. Of course, what your child does after he receives the inheritance can change what was once his separate property into community property. The most typical example is where the child who receives the inheritance places the assets into a joint bank account. Once he does that, it may not be his separate property anymore. So the best approach is to make sure he doesn’t commingle these newly received assets with the joint assets of he and his spouse. Certain types of Living Trusts can help greatly in preserving these inherited assets as separate property.

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  14. Does an A-B Living Trust Have Any Disadvantages?
    A-B trusts are a type of Living Trust set up by someone who is married (in California, typically one trust for both spouses) and is designed to reduce or eliminate the Federal Estate (Death) Tax that would normally be incurred upon the death of the second spouse to die. Keep in mind that everything has disadvantages, including A-B Trusts. Initial cost, complexity, and maintenance costs after the first spouse dies are some of these. So whether it is worthwhile or not depends upon your circumstances. A good estate planning attorney (typically not the low cost bidder) can help you decide. (See How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney and Questions To Ask To Determine If An Estate Planning Attorney Is Really Competent in this FAQ.)

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  15. If I Have More than the Federal Estate Tax Equivalent
    ($675,000 in 2000), is an A-B Trust Utopia ?
    I am embarrassed to say that there have been many people who have spoken before groups of consumers (and some of these speakers were attorneys) who left the false impression that if you have an A-B Trust all of your problems were solved and you had reached “tax Utopia.” Unfortunately, there is no tax Utopia. For example, if a husband and wife have a net worth for Federal Estate Tax purposes of $2 million and we assume that 1) it is 1999, 2) the first spouse dies in 2000, 3) the second spouse dies seven years later 4) their estate appreciates at five percent per year and the first spouse to die leaves everything outright to the other (i.e. they do not have an A-B Trust), then upon the second death there would be a death tax of approx. $921,000. On the other hand, if they have an A-B Trust the death tax would be approx. $437,500. This is an improvement of approximately $485,000. That’s good. But I know of no one who would say that a tax bill of almost $500,000 is utopia. (See my page on Federal Estate Tax for more information on the exemption equivalent.) So this couple would be well advised to investigate advanced estate planning techniques to further reduce the tax. A good estate planning attorney (typically not the low cost bidder) should be able to help them with this. (See How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney and Questions To Ask To Determine If An Estate Planning Attorney Is Really Competent in this FAQ.)

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  16. How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney
    When Moving To A New State/City?
    In those states, such as California, where qualified organizations have certified attorneys as specialists in the estate planning field (See explanation of the California Certification program) , that organization can be contacted. In other states or where no certified specialist attorney is available in the locale in question, one can contact one of the larger commercial banks. These banks generally have Trust Departments. (The old savings and loans, most of which are now banks, do not usually offer this type of service.) The local branches can usually provide the Trust Department phone number (although sometimes the teller may be unaware of this division of the bank). Ask the phone operator at the Trust Department to connect you with one of their Trust Officers. Ask the Trust Officer for a referral to a local, competent estate planning attorney. These officers have constant contact with attorneys in the local community and should know who is competent. Do keep in mind that there are two types of Trust Officers. A marketing trust officer and an administrative trust officer. Either can probably give you the necessary information but the marketing officer will probably have more attorney contacts.

    In my mind this method for finding a competent attorney is superior to lawyer referral services (LRS). With any LRS you never know what qualifications have been required of its attorneys and you typically are referred to whoever is next on the list (whether super qualified or only marginally competent).

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  17. Questions To Ask To Determine If An Estate Planning Attorney Is Really Competent
    Inquire about the attorney’s credentials: Does he or she have any specialized education? Keep in mind that all California attorneys must take 25 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain their license. So ask what the titles of the courses were to determine if the courses were relevant to estate planning, trust, and probate law.

    Does the attorney teach courses in the estate planning, trust, and probate law field? Teaching is a great method to keep up to date.

    Will the client actually be interviewed by and consult with the attorney who attracted attention in the first place, or will an associate attorney whom you do not know and/or have not had an opportunity to investigate handle the matter? Is the attorney who will service the client fresh out of law school with limited experience? ASK FOR THE NAME OF THE ATTORNEY WHOM YOU WILL ACTUALLY SEE AND THE YEAR IN WHICH HE OR SHE GRADUATED FROM LAW SCHOOL. Many people feel that a person must have been out of law school a minimum of 5 years before the legal academic knowledge has been matured by sufficient practical experience. Some people feel even longer is necessary.

    Will the attorney discuss all viable options with the client based on that client’s individual objectives and circumstances or does the attorney offer just one solution for virtually all circumstances? A “one pill for all ills” approach is not generally appropriate.

    Many people think these are great questions but they would simply be too embarrassed to ask them. If you can’t see yourself asking these questions, you don’t have to. Because the State Bar of California already has through its board certification specialty program. (See explanation of the California Certification program) . So if you’d be too embarrassed to ask this series of questions, just ask one: Ask the attorney if they are a board certified specialist in the field of Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law.

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  18. Does It Matter If the Attorney Has His Main Office In Another City?
    — Estate Planning (see below for a discussion of this issue from the aspect of Estate Administration)

    If you are of the opinion that once you sign a Will or Living Trust, it will not be necessary to make changes for the next 50 years, it probably doesn’t matter where the attorney’s main office is located. On the other hand, if you agree that change is constant and that it’s important to have your estate planning documents reviewed periodically then it may matter greatly.

    Many attorneys give seminars to bring in new business. Some attorneys take this to the extreme and go on the “seminar circuit.” They might have their main office in Los Angeles and give seminars all over the state. With an 800 telephone number, or even a local phone number, the attorney can give the impression that he has a commitment to each area in which he gives seminars.

    But with the magic of call forwarding and other devices, the attorney may really have no long term commitment to any area beyond the immediate reach of his main office. When the attorney realizes that he is not making enough money from some of these sites, he simply stops visiting them. This leaves any clients who he picked up in that area in the unenviable position of either traveling a long distance to the attorney’s main office or establishing a new relationship with a local attorney.

    Any time a client has to establish a new relationship, it is going to cost additional money. Therefore, it is important to make sure that if the local office is not the attorney’s main office, the attorney has a long term commitment to the local area. Of course, there can never be any guarantees. Attorneys die, retire, and move just like everyone else. But you want to place the odds that the attorney will still be accessible to you in your favor. Some of the questions I think should be asked are 1) how long has the attorney had an office in the area in question (there’s nothing like a long-term track record), 2) is the local office staffed five days a week or something less (just what is the attorney’s monetary commitment to the site), when the local number is called, at what office is it actually answered (is this just a “mail drop location” that’s only active when an appointment is scheduled).

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  19. Does It Matter If the Attorney Has His Main Office In Another City?
    — Estate Administration (see above for a discussion of this issue from the aspect of Estate Planning)

    Estate administration involves the handling of the legal details of a person’s estate (his assets), usually when that person has died or becomes incapacitated (for simplicity we’ll call this person the decedent). If you are the appointed manager (trustee, executor, power of attorney holder, etc.) for a decedent who lives in one city while you live elsewhere, that can create a problem. Do you retain an attorney in your area (local area) or do you retain an attorney in the area where the decedent lived/lives (remote area)? There are advantages and disadvantages in either case.

    If we’re talking about a situation in which the decedent lived and/or owned assets in a state different from where the manager resides, there are legal considerations. The law and procedures of each state are different. Real estate is typically governed by the laws and procedures of the state in which the real estate is located (which could be a different state from the one in which the decedent lived). Other assets may be governed by the law of the state in which the decedent lived or maybe even by the law of the state in which the manager lives. So the first question, then, is whether the attorney you are considering is licensed in the relevant state. (If you were wondering, I’m only licensed in California. So if you call me, my first question is going to be “Where’s the California “connection?” )

    If you use an attorney in your area, that attorney probably won’t have contacts in the remote area. These contacts might involve real estate brokers or escrow companies. Or it might be as mundane as knowing who to call at the tax assessor’s/collector’s office. And the deceased person may have had an attorney in the remote area who is very familiar with the decedent’s documents and desires (a real plus in allowing things to progress quicker) or may even know (and work well) with the decedent’s income tax advisor. (You’ll probably involve this tax advisor to some extent since he has some detailed information on the decedent’s affairs.)

    If you use an attorney in the remote area, then, depending upon the attorney, you might have to travel constantly to work with the attorney and use regular mail. (See our solution coming up below.) Traveling long distances can be tiring and eat up an enormous amount of time. Regular mail (snail mail) can be cumbersome and slow. Further, most people do not have “always on” fax capability, so this method creates various communication problems.

    Recognizing the difficulty, we have developed a process to take the pain out of this situation. After much experimentation, we have combined various methodologies into a smooth running process. We use attachments to email to transport our documents and correspondence. By combining the use of scheduled telephone consultations along with email attachments, we can discuss issues of concern and/or document provisions every bit as effectively as if the client were in the office. Video meetings by Skype are also available.  Further, we now have the capability to send Estate Tax Returns and Probate Court documents in this manner. Of course, anything that has to bear an original signature usually cannot be sent back by email but that problem is solved by the courier services (FedEx, UPS, etc). If you’re considering retaining an attorney in a remote city, check and see if that firm is willing to take this approach, has ever done it before, and how good they are at it.

    Although the process sounds easy, it isn’t. About half the law firms use WordPerfect, not Microsoft Word. (The vast majority of the world, probably including you, uses Word.) If they send you a document in WordPerfect, something is often lost in the conversion when you open it in Word. And even if they have Word, many law firms do not have the capability to create all of their other documents (estate tax returns, other tax forms, Probate court documents, etc.) in a format that can be sent to you via email. And some firms simply don’t want to work this way. So request that they send you a firm brochure or other information by email attachment as at least a minimal test of their capability.

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  20. How Do Attorneys Charge?
    There are a number of different methods under which attorneys charge. (You may wish to take a look at the State Bar of California’s consumer information pamphlet “ How Can I Find and Hire the Right Lawyer? ” especially item #12 which discusses the various different methods of computing fees.) What method one attorney uses may be radically different than another, but yet the end result could be surprisingly similar. Of course, it’s important that you understand how your attorney will be billing and charging in your situation. Follow this link to take a look at our Policy on Attorneys Fees .

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  21. Should You Hire a Typist a Paralegal or an Attorney?
    People get confused on this a lot. I’ve had many a consumer sit down in my office, in possession of their Living Trust (done by another law office or maybe even a paralegal) that might have been several years old and tell me that all they wanted was a simple change so that grandson Hank would get $40,000 instead of $20,000. They didn’t want me to review it, they didn’t want me to tell them what else might need to be changed, they didn’t want to discuss whether Hank’s mother (their daughter) might get upset about this and how they could deal with it, and they didn’t want to discuss of what their estate consisted and whether they would actually have enough cash upon their demise for this gift to actually be feasible. And they certainly didn’t want to pay me more that $75 to get the job done. What they really wanted, but didn’t know it, was a typist, not an attorney.

    So what’s the difference? Without getting too technical, you want a typist if you know exactly what you want to do, exactly what wording you want to change and what the new wording should be, and you know exactly what sentence or paragraph you want to change. Typists typically charge by the page; so if your change is short, figure $25. Paralegals, on the other hand, often know where the change should take place in your document and might even know how to word it effectively. Figure you might pay $75 to a Paralegal for this job. But if you want to know not only where the change needs to be made and how to word it but, also, how that change might affect other provisions in your documents, whether it is a good idea or not, alternatives to the general changes you had in mind, the tax effects of this change, how to protect those changes from challenge, other changes that might be a good idea to make either because of this change or changes in the law or your other circumstances since your Living Trust was originally created, then you want a lawyer. But don’t expect to pay Paralegal prices for a lawyer. A lawyer would charge based on the complexity of the change and the complexity of your entire estate; but if you haven’t seen that lawyer for several years or the original Living Trust was done by someone else, it’s doubtful that it could be competently done for less than about $650.

    Oh, and by the way, if you do choose the Paralegal or typist and things don’t work out the way they were supposed to because of what the person did or advised, don’t expect your children to be able to hold that person responsible for the losses they’ve suffered. A court will probably tell you that you should have hired an attorney to do the job because in most states it’s illegal for anyone other than an attorney to do this type of work (although in California this law is rarely enforced).

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  22. What About Living Trust Sales Operations That Use Consultants?
    This description can include a large number of organizations, some competent and some not. The focus of this answer is those operations that offer documents that are basically boilerplate and do not really deal with your particular circumstances or problems. The documents are usually very inexpensive. These businesses are often referred to as “living trust mills.” Some have attorneys somewhere in the background that may actually look at the document, some don’t. Often the attorney who is on staff is relatively inexperienced or subject to the directions of others (this would probably not be in the best interest of the customer/client) rather than being able to exercise independent judgment as to what might be appropriate for the customer/client. In many cases, the consultant who comes to the home is a non-attorney who has very little training.

    Many of these operations have as their real motive, the desire to sell you investments and annuities. After all, common sense tells us that they have to make their money somewhere. If they are offering super low cost documents, then they have to be making a profit somewhere else in order to support the costs of their operation.

    While the mere fact that they are selling investments and annuities (at least in my mind) is not that repugnant, the fact that you often are not told that this is their focus until well into the process is. The lack of significant experience of the “consultants” and the relatively little contact or involvement of the attorney is another huge concern. For more information on this problem and a form/questionnaire to help you weed out the good from the bad, see Healthcare and Elder Law Programs Corporation web site (we have no relationship to them) at http://www.help4srs.org/articles/askfirst.htm. However, as with all links to other web sites, I cannot and do not guarantee or warranty their information. So you will have to decide for yourself how appropriate and trustworthy their information may be.

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  23. Should I Hire Mr. Miller To Do My Trust Although I Live In Another State?
    Many people browsing this web page have inquired as to whether I could do their Living Trust. Many of these people lived in states other than California. While I am very gratified that these people were so impressed with this web page set to consider the idea, and since this has occurred so many times, I have decided to add this question to the FAQ page. As stated in numerous locations on this web page set, I am licensed to practice in California only. I am not significantly familiar with the law of any other state. If you own real estate in California, are a resident here, or are at least a part-time resident here, or your case has a California connection, then we can certainly discuss this thought. With one exception discussed below, if you have no connection to California or your case has no connection to California, then I should not be your attorney. You are going to be much better served by an attorney in your home state or, perhaps, where you own real estate or in the state in which the case is connected for at least two reasons.

    First, I consider the attorney-client relationship to be a very personal one. This is not the type of thing where I send you a questionnaire, you fill it out, and I create a trust. I’m sure you can find a lot of low cost attorneys and non-attorneys on the Internet who do approach it that way. I do not. Although we might be able to manage the relationship by telephone, fax, e-mail and, yes, even snail mail, there will have to be significant interaction between us. Secondly, the laws of every state are different. As are the procedures and customs. Assuming it were even legal, I can’t do as good a job for a New Jersey resident owning land in New Jersey and having no connection to California as a competent New Jersey attorney can. (One potential exception to all of this is the situation in which the law of another state is more advantageous than the law of your home state. Then, depending on the circumstances, we may be able to help you, possibly working in conjunction with an attorney in your home state.) As to how to find a good attorney in one of those states take a look at the FAQ question How Can One Find A Competent Estate Planning Attorney When Moving To A New State/City? .

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  24. Articles & Columns on Living Trusts, How to Organize, & the Advantages of Charitable Giving Now Available in Book Format.
    Click here for more information.

    DISCLAIMER: Merwyn J. Miller is licensed to practice in the State of California only. Our office is located in Encinitas, (San Diego County) California. (Encinitas is adjacent to the following communities:  Cardiff, Carlsbad, Del Mar, La Costa, Leuadia, Oceanside, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Solana Beach, and Vista.)  The information provided in this FAQ page is offered for informational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice. Mr. Miller does not seek to represent you based upon your visit or review of this Web page set. You should not make legal hiring decisions based upon brochures, advertising or other promotional materials. As you read this FAQ, keep in mind that the answer to any given situation could change drastically with only a small change in the facts. Therefore, do not rely upon these answers to solve your or someone else’s problem. Instead, seek competent professional assistance.

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About Living Trusts

About Living Trusts is hosted by the Law Offices of Merwyn J. Miller, as your online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Merwyn J. Miller, J.D.


  • Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
  • Co-Author of legal text book and of “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home
  • Teacher of law courses at public and private colleges
  • Continuing Education Instructor for attorneys
  • Columnist for largest regional newspaper in San Diego County and professional journals for 15 years, Contributing author to the book “In Your Service: The Veteran’s Friend”
  • Masters Degree in Financial Services - Estate Planning
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