I am a fan of living trusts. Trusts avoid probate. Probate is not the chamber of horrors that it is sometimes made out to be. But, all things being the same, you are better off side-stepping it if possible.
In Illinois, probate is not terribly expensive since we do not have a fee schedule that sets mandatory executor’s and attorney’s fees. Our probate statute allows ”reasonable” attorney’s fees. Generally, a probate case involves a minimum of two court appearances by the attorney. Attorney’s fees in a standard probate range from a low of $1500.00 to a high of $3500.00. In addition to the attorney’s fees there are filing fees and costs. Here are the current costs in Cook County for a testate (with a will) probate:
$314.00 Filing fee to Clerk of Court
$180.00 Claims Notice in Newspaper
$20.00 Copies of letters of office
$514.00 Total Costs
Generally, the total cost of a probate (including costs and attorney’s fees) will be as low as $2000.00 or as high as $4000.00. This would not include any tax advice, adminstration of the assets after the probate is opened or asset transfers. This is just to open and close the estate.
With a living trust, these costs are avoided and the client can go straight to collecting and distributing the assets without the added cost of the probate. Often, the cost of setting up a living trust is just a little more than the cost of the probate filing fees alone, so it makes sense to skip the probate by using a trust.