Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney

In California there are two general ways to structure an estate plan: with a “Living Trust” or with a “Will“.

There are many differences between the two, including up front cost, costs down the line, ease and difficulty of administration, ability to plan for taxes, the need for hiring an attorney and of course the emotional toll on your family. While this post is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of all of these, I hope the following helps you understand your options:

Some food for thought:

  • Upfront cost: An estate plan with a will as the primary vehicle for distributing your property shouldn’t cost you more than $1000. An estate plan with a living trust will cost you between $1500 – $6000.
  • Privacy: A will is made public upon your death. A trust will remain private (unless judicial oversight is requested).
  • Administration after your death: A will must be “probated”, that is, your named executor must file your will with the county clerk, open a probate petition and seek approval from the court before distributing your estate. In comparison, a trust is administered privately, with or without the assistance of an attorney, and with no judicial oversight (unless it is requested). This is almost always an upside, but CAN be a downside for some clients– do you have family members who will make private administration difficult? Are you worried your adult children will disagree on every detail? If so, and you can’t adequately plan ahead in your trust, probate court may be the best place for your estate to be administered.
  • Cost after your death: What probate court translates to for many families is TIME and MONEY. To probate your estate after your death, your family must file a probate petition ($485 in LA) and will likely hire a probate attorney to help navigate the procedural maze that is probate court. The attorney will take a percentage of the estate, pursuant to the CA probate code, prior to your family receiving their inheritance. In addition, the court imposes its own fees, which range greatly depending on the size and complexity of your estate.

There are so many additional things to consider when planning your estate, but hopefully this explained to you the main differences between signing just a will and executing a living trust. I obviously recommend hiring an experienced estate planning attorney to advise you in this process. Find an attorney you are comfortable with and be honest and upfront with them about your goals and your questions.

Happy Planning!


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.