D EAR HARRY: I was invited to a free seminar on how to avoid probate and other death costs. It was well-attended, and they served a fine breakfast, to boot. Two presenters pointed out the advantages of living trusts. The second guy was as sharp a salesman as I have ever seen. He smoothly moved into a pitch for their services in creating such trusts. The fees quoted were based on the total of the assets transferred with a minimum of $1,000. He also said that the rates are going up by 20 percent next week. Many people signed up. I didn't, in part because my wife made me agree in advance not to sign anything without discussing it with her first. We discussed it for several hours, and agreed to abide by your advice.
WHAT HARRY SAYS: First of all, some assets can't be transferred and some may be forgotten, so you'll need a will anyway. The best example is an automobile. Second, the costs saved in Pennsylvania are far less than the cost of creating the trusts. Third, their fees are stiff. Fourth, these are people you do not know. Do not go to anyone to help you plan the disposition of your estate without high recommendations. You may get an idea or two out of these freebies (in addition to the fine breakfast), but that would be rare. Get advice and recommendations from your own CPA and lawyer.