What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

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copernicus_161619
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What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by copernicus_161619 » Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:03 pm

I was just curious what others consider to be reasonable legal fees for establishing a will and revocable trust for a straight forward married couple in their 30's with a few small kids. Understood there is a wide spectrum of costs associated with this service depending on one's location, estate complexity, etc. And that a basic (but potentially risky and incomplete) will/trust can be established online for about $500. But for a married couple under 40, without a complicated family dynamic, a few very young children, single home in a major east coast metro with a mortgage and retirement/taxable investment accounts totaling less than $5M what is a reasonable amount of money to pay? I just want to avoid overpaying for something like this that will need to be revisited down the road.

Nowizard
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Nowizard » Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:16 pm

Ours was $1,500 and included healthcare instructions, POA, ten copies of the certification for use when needed,etc.

Tim

fyre4ce
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by fyre4ce » Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:23 pm

Located in California. Paid $3,500 for a revocable living trust (reasonably complex, it's an A-B trust), wills, powers of attorney, advance directives. We talked to a few attorneys and this one was the cheapest; next cheapest was $4,000. The price includes some level of ongoing management if we need changes, although when I asked what level of complexity of changes would trigger additional charges I got a vague answer.

stan1
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by stan1 » Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:30 pm

We paid $2000 for a "full package" in California (no kids or minor heirs). No complications of like owning a business. We used an young attorney who graduated from the local law school and is in practice by herself who lists prices on her website.

If you are around $5M in your 30s you probably should at least be talking to the attorney about estate tax. Who knows what situation will be like in 50+ years. Also if you own a business.

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GerryL
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by GerryL » Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:47 pm

fyre4ce wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:23 pm
Located in California. Paid $3,500 for a revocable living trust (reasonably complex, it's an A-B trust), wills, powers of attorney, advance directives. We talked to a few attorneys and this one was the cheapest; next cheapest was $4,000. The price includes some level of ongoing management if we need changes, although when I asked what level of complexity of changes would trigger additional charges I got a vague answer.
These are around the $ figure I was given when I recently spoke with an attorney who specializes in elder law. Oregon.

nesdog
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by nesdog » Tue Dec 24, 2019 10:20 pm

fyre4ce wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:23 pm
Located in California. Paid $3,500 for a revocable living trust (reasonably complex, it's an A-B trust), wills, powers of attorney, advance directives. We talked to a few attorneys and this one was the cheapest; next cheapest was $4,000. The price includes some level of ongoing management if we need changes, although when I asked what level of complexity of changes would trigger additional charges I got a vague answer.
Same here. We are just completing our trust and that is pretty much our exact cost. Includes all of the above (also located in Socal).
Insert clever comment here...

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by bsteiner » Wed Dec 25, 2019 9:26 am

It will vary based on the level of the lawyer, the level of the law firm, the size of the law firm, and the city you're in, and on how much time you need in the decision making process.

But if your estate is around $5 million (and likely to grow if you already have $5 million at a young age) and you're in a major metropolitan area, it will likely be more than the figures others have mentioned, especially if you work with a lawyer who regularly deals with estates of that size.

If you have any life insurance, you should consider the amount of the coverage as if it were cash for purposes of your estate planning, since upon your death it will become cash.

Is there any reason you want a revocable trust (actually two of them since there aren't any community property states on the east coast)? Revocable trusts make sense in some cases, and in some states, including a few states on the east coast but not the ones with the major metropolitan areas. If you don't need them, you could reduce the cost by not doing them.
GerryL wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:47 pm
...
These are around the $ figure I was given when I recently spoke with an attorney who specializes in elder law. ...
If it's an estate planning matter rather than a Medicaid planning matter you might want to work with a trusts and estates lawyer rather than an elder law attorney.

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Dottie57 » Wed Dec 25, 2019 9:57 am

I paid $2500 about 10 years ago for a revocable trust and will. Well worth it as the attorney asked very thought provoking questions.

J295
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by J295 » Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:14 am

So interesting how it’s geography driven. Retired lawyer here. In our firm of 25 lawyers in a community of 250,000 in middle America we would typically charge $500 for two “ I love you” wills with trusts for minor children, powers of attorney for healthcare, and general durable powers of attorney. An I love you will is everything to my spouse, and if no spouse then equally to my children.

For such a straightforward situation, these are not difficult from a drafting perspective with a good computer program and a capable and experienced legal assistant.

As a data point, our lawyers were law review/ top of the class/ State bar association presidents, etc. so we weren’t just hanging up our shingles for business in a shopping mall

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Jimmie » Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:41 am

J295 wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 10:14 am
So interesting how it’s geography driven. Retired lawyer here. In our firm of 25 lawyers in a community of 250,000 in middle America we would typically charge $500 for two “ I love you” wills with trusts for minor children, powers of attorney for healthcare, and general durable powers of attorney. An I love you will is everything to my spouse, and if no spouse then equally to my children.

For such a straightforward situation, these are not difficult from a drafting perspective with a good computer program and a capable and experienced legal assistant.

As a data point, our lawyers were law review/ top of the class/ State bar association presidents, etc. so we weren’t just hanging up our shingles for business in a shopping mall
The attorney who worked with my parents and our family business for years also did my will after I was divorced in 1996. He specializes in Commercial Transactions, Corporate & Commercial Law and Probate & Estates. Back then, it was simple and cheap even though trusts were set up for my children, then 10 and 4 years old.

Fast forward to this year. My dear GF has never had a will yet keeps saying she needs to get one. After tiring of hearing her acceptance speech for "Procrastinator of the Year", I looked up my old attorney and was surprised to find out he was still practicing. (You would think after all these years, he would be done practicing and get in the game already)

Lame jokes aside, we made an appointment, met with him, gave him our life details and answered his questions. After a couple of drafts (documents, not beer) and edits, we had both of our wills (mine updated) and all the other Powers of Attorney, medical documents, etc. for a grand total of $600 for the both of us. It helps that we can name beneficiaries for all of our monetary assets at financial institutions now while we are still alive. Dear GF added a clause about her house in her will that allows me to stay there for a year at my option should she predecease me. This was to avoid a conflict with her kids should they get greedy after her death. (We know someone that this happened to and the kids threw out their Dad's GF.)

As J295 stated above, with everything being straightforward, the legal assistant did most of the work, keeping costs low. All in all, it was a great deal and now we are all set.

SlowlySaving
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by SlowlySaving » Thu Dec 26, 2019 3:06 am

I bought Quicken WillMaker & Trust 2020 on Black Friday for about $75, I am going to use that for wills, health directives and for a trust. I don't think it is as complicated as some might want you to think.

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copernicus_161619
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by copernicus_161619 » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:05 am

All - very helpful comments, many thanks! I know there's a wide dispersion of costs and confounding factors that go into these legal fees. However, for my family, I kind of view our situation as pretty straight forward so I just wanted to avoid overpaying for something that will most likely not require a whole lot of time to prepare.

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snackdog
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by snackdog » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:19 am

We paid around $700 in the Bay Area for the full package (wills, trusts, health directives). No kids so fairly straightforward.

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Kenkat
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Kenkat » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:52 am

We recently re-did our wills, etc. when our youngest son turned 18. $1000 for wills, healthcare and POA, transfer on death registration and a standby trust to catch any assets not otherwise covered by beneficiary designations or TOD instructions.

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dm200
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by dm200 » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:57 am

Some comments/suggestions based on our experience (both good and bad):

There are several different ways attorneys charge for estate (and related) documents. Before engaging an attorney, make 100% sure you understand and are in agreement with his/her method.

One method is strictly actual hours expended times rate per hour. Some such attorneys only charge this way. Some (potential) disadvantages for the client may include: paying more when the attorney must do 'research' , paying more for a "slow" attorney and paying more when the attorney makes a mistake. After my wife and I had our last documents done (not paying per hour), I was chatting with a personal friend who is an attorney and does some estate documents as part of her legal practice. She told me she charges by the hour - for her actual time to do the work. I asked her if that charge included client review of the draft for drafting errors/mistakes. She said, "No, because I do not make errors or mistakes!" I was very, very glad we did not use her for our wills!

Another method (what we used and were very happy): Initial 30-60 minute appointments/session with the attorney for a regular charge/fee - perhaps in the $300 - $500 range. You take list of assets, outline of what you would like to do, family/heir situation, etc. At the end of that session, the attorney will make recommendation(s) and for each recommendation a fixed price. You would, then: 1. Walk away if you did not like anything proposed (but you have paid for the session; or 2. Accept a/the recommendation/fee and proceed. In our case, the attorney recommended either complex disclaimer wills with testamentary trust or trust with basic will. After a brief discussion, we chose the complex disclaimer wills with testamentary trust. This choice was slightly lower in price. In our case, the fixed fee included our review/correction of the draft documents until we were 100% satisfied. When we reviewed the first draft, we noted one different drafting error in our wills. One error was a copy/paste error from one will to another (since our wills were mirror images) and the other error was due to a misunderstanding by the attorney of one aspect of what we wanted. This fixed price, in our case, included a list of specific details for how primary and secondary beneficiaries should be done for life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. The fee included full notarization and witnessing of the documents. We also had powers of attorney and medical directives done as well. The fee also included, if we desired, a final discussion/review of all the details - but we waived that because we already (from preparation and draft reviews) had the full understanding.

I am sure there are some other charging/billing methods used.

When evaluating how much or little to spend, consider the tradeoff of spending a little more for wills/trusts that will last longer. If your wills/trusts provide for the death(s) of your primary heirs - you would not need to have new wills/trusts when such heirs die.

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dm200
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by dm200 » Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:12 am

As for the medical document(s) specifying your desires relating to the extent of care, etc., we soon will be, using the forms from Kaiser (our healthcare provider). Kaiser has pdf documents that can be filled in electronically - and then printed. Now that our adult son has (we hope) become a responsible adult and is now married to another (we again hope) responsible adult, we will make our son and daughter-in-law the designated secondary/tertiary folks to make such decisions (after my wife for me and me for my wife).

Therefore, we will not have to pay an attorney for these documents.

Some (perhaps many) states have such sample or draft "fill in" documents that can be used like this.

Some (again, perhaps many) religious organizations also offer such draft documents that are consistent with that religious organization's beliefs.

True story: A number of years ago, I saw that our Catholic Diocese offered such draft/sample documents. This was before such documents were available online. The Diocese mailed me the recommended sample/draft. I looked at it and concluded our then existing documents were already fine. Then, a few months later, my wife told me that I/we had received a letter from the Catholic Bishop to some kind of group meeting with the Bishop - wanting to hear my views/opinions about various matters. I then told my wife that I really doubted that the Bishop wanted my opinion(s) - but rather was hoping that I/we would include the Diocese as a significant heir in our wills (which we did not).

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Rob5TCP » Thu Dec 26, 2019 12:35 pm

SlowlySaving wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 3:06 am
I bought Quicken WillMaker & Trust 2020 on Black Friday for about $75, I am going to use that for wills, health directives and for a trust. I don't think it is as complicated as some might want you to think.
+1 Just bought today on year end sale

Lion Rock
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Lion Rock » Thu Dec 26, 2019 12:56 pm

In 2018 I paid $3,500 for revocable trust documents. I think my situation is fairly simple (single, no children, assets going to parents or siblings). DC area, mid-sized legal firm. Think the fee was a bit on the high side but I felt the attorney knew his stuff and spent a good amount of time answering my questions. I also really didn't want to shop around more once I found I trusted his expertise.

My parents also used the attorney to update their wills and add POAs and advance directives. Also straightforward situation. $2,500 for the set of docs.

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dm200
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by dm200 » Thu Dec 26, 2019 1:04 pm

Lion Rock wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 12:56 pm
In 2018 I paid $3,500 for revocable trust documents. I think my situation is fairly simple (single, no children, assets going to parents or siblings). DC area, mid-sized legal firm. Think the fee was a bit on the high side but I felt the attorney knew his stuff and spent a good amount of time answering my questions. I also really didn't want to shop around more once I found I trusted his expertise.
My parents also used the attorney to update their wills and add POAs and advance directives. Also straightforward situation. $2,500 for the set of docs.
Adjusting for the many years since we did our documents, and in the same area - $3,500 seems ok, as does your parents' $2,500.

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by fyre4ce » Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:35 pm

nesdog wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 10:20 pm
fyre4ce wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:23 pm
Located in California. Paid $3,500 for a revocable living trust (reasonably complex, it's an A-B trust), wills, powers of attorney, advance directives. We talked to a few attorneys and this one was the cheapest; next cheapest was $4,000. The price includes some level of ongoing management if we need changes, although when I asked what level of complexity of changes would trigger additional charges I got a vague answer.
Same here. We are just completing our trust and that is pretty much our exact cost. Includes all of the above (also located in Socal).
Like many other BH's I'm sure, I'm more of an ask questions/teach me type of client, and I got the sense from our attorney he didn't want to take the extra time compared to most of his clients who just want to sign the last page. In a couple of our interactions he seemed curt. Maybe it wasn't the best fit. Something other BH's should look out for.

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Ferdinand2014 » Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:58 pm

$1,500. Maine. 2 x trusts for grandchildren. 2 x POA, 2 x estate mirror image wills
“You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.“ — Warren Buffett

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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Spirit Rider » Fri Dec 27, 2019 1:17 am

fyre4ce wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:35 pm
Like many other BH's I'm sure, I'm more of an ask questions/teach me type of client, and I got the sense from our attorney he didn't want to take the extra time compared to most of his clients who just want to sign the last page. In a couple of our interactions he seemed curt. Maybe it wasn't the best fit. Something other BH's should look out for.
Time is money. You are paying for a will and/or trust, not an education. This is the same as with tax preparation with a CPA. You are hiring them to do your taxes. If you want them to do tax planning that will require more money. If you want an attorney to educate you, I'm sure they will oblige at their hourly rate, just don't expect it for free.

fyre4ce
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by fyre4ce » Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:50 pm

Spirit Rider wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 1:17 am
fyre4ce wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:35 pm
Like many other BH's I'm sure, I'm more of an ask questions/teach me type of client, and I got the sense from our attorney he didn't want to take the extra time compared to most of his clients who just want to sign the last page. In a couple of our interactions he seemed curt. Maybe it wasn't the best fit. Something other BH's should look out for.
Time is money. You are paying for a will and/or trust, not an education. This is the same as with tax preparation with a CPA. You are hiring them to do your taxes. If you want them to do tax planning that will require more money. If you want an attorney to educate you, I'm sure they will oblige at their hourly rate, just don't expect it for free.
Agreed, but it can be a fine line between getting a general education and understanding how the products I’m being offered actually work, particularly when I’m being asked to choose between multiple options. I understand time is money, but with a flat rate price I would expect some basic amount of explanation/Q&A to be included, unless it’s specifically stated otherwise in the representation agreement. The right solution seems to be to work out expectations beforehand.

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GerryL
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by GerryL » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:09 pm

fyre4ce wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:50 pm
Spirit Rider wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 1:17 am
fyre4ce wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 11:35 pm
Like many other BH's I'm sure, I'm more of an ask questions/teach me type of client, and I got the sense from our attorney he didn't want to take the extra time compared to most of his clients who just want to sign the last page. In a couple of our interactions he seemed curt. Maybe it wasn't the best fit. Something other BH's should look out for.
Time is money. You are paying for a will and/or trust, not an education. This is the same as with tax preparation with a CPA. You are hiring them to do your taxes. If you want them to do tax planning that will require more money. If you want an attorney to educate you, I'm sure they will oblige at their hourly rate, just don't expect it for free.
Agreed, but it can be a fine line between getting a general education and understanding how the products I’m being offered actually work, particularly when I’m being asked to choose between multiple options. I understand time is money, but with a flat rate price I would expect some basic amount of explanation/Q&A to be included, unless it’s specifically stated otherwise in the representation agreement. The right solution seems to be to work out expectations beforehand.
I've been reading up on estate planning for solo agers and had specific questions for the lawyer for our initial meeting. I took away some homework (e.g., interviewing some professional fiduciaries that were recommended) and am still studying/reading to make sure I understand the lingo and the basics and can use our time together to ask questions that are critical for my own situation.

skyfallen
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by skyfallen » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:53 pm

Some employer insurances provide discount packages that include legal assistance.
Mine is from metlaw package. It includes local attorneys that agree to provide certain legal services, including wills, trusts, estate planning etc at big discounts.

GuyInFL
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by GuyInFL » Fri Dec 27, 2019 9:33 pm

I've been listening to an estate planning podcast hosted by www.lawbob.com and think it would be worthwile to listen to prior to setting up these documents.

Prudence
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by Prudence » Sat Dec 28, 2019 10:42 am

bsteiner wrote:
Wed Dec 25, 2019 9:26 am
It will vary based on the level of the lawyer, the level of the law firm, the size of the law firm, and the city you're in, and on how much time you need in the decision making process.

But if your estate is around $5 million (and likely to grow if you already have $5 million at a young age) and you're in a major metropolitan area, it will likely be more than the figures others have mentioned, especially if you work with a lawyer who regularly deals with estates of that size.

If you have any life insurance, you should consider the amount of the coverage as if it were cash for purposes of your estate planning, since upon your death it will become cash.

Is there any reason you want a revocable trust (actually two of them since there aren't any community property states on the east coast)? Revocable trusts make sense in some cases, and in some states, including a few states on the east coast but not the ones with the major metropolitan areas. If you don't need them, you could reduce the cost by not doing them.
GerryL wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 5:47 pm
...
These are around the $ figure I was given when I recently spoke with an attorney who specializes in elder law. ...
If it's an estate planning matter rather than a Medicaid planning matter you might want to work with a trusts and estates lawyer rather than an elder law attorney.
I live in Maryland (married). Do you mean that a revocable trust would not make sense in Maryland? Why? Do you mean that no trust at all would make sense (in Maryland) or just a revocable trust? I (we) have never had a trust but I have thought maybe we should establish one to include a couple of assets like our house. But, your post implies that it would never make sense for us in Maryland. I think I am misinterpreting your post. Thank you.

newtonc
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Re: What is a reasonable attorney fee for establishing a will/trust?

Post by newtonc » Sat Dec 28, 2019 9:28 pm

I live in North Carolina and paid $275.00 at my local Credit Union for a Will, with a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive and Heath Care Waiver. The will creates a lifetime trust and other things that I wanted. I think it's a good deal that the Credit Union offers through a group of attorneys.
Had the Credit Union do this about 5 years ago and recently got it updated so I had to pay the $275.00 again because of the creation of a trust. I feel I got a good deal.

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