Frequently Asked Questions

How much does estate planning cost?
AIt really depends on your facts and circumstances (and yes, we realize how unsatisfying an answer this is). An estate plan built around a Last Will generally costs less than one built around a Revocable Trust. However, irrespective of the document used, different situations require different techniques which will affect the cost. Examples of these different situations include possible distributions to minor children, distributions to special needs individuals, the need for estate tax planning, the need for generation skipping transfer tax planning, etc. We try to be very open when it comes to billing. However, providing billing information for general estate planning is especially difficult. We almost always bill on a flat fee basis for general estate planning. A straightforward Will-based estate plan (which usually includes not only the Will, but also a Financial Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney) typically costs approximately $3,500 for a single individual and $4,500 for a married couple. A Revocable Trust-based estate plan (which usually includes not only the Revocable Trust, but also a Pour Over Will, Financial Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney) typically costs approximately $4,500 – $6,500 for a single individual and $5,500 – $7,500 for a married couple.
How much does asset protection planning cost?
AThere are many different types of asset protection planning. Timing is an important issue in asset protection planning. As a general matter, you cannot protect your assets from your existing creditors, those that you know are about to arise (such as individuals who have or are about to file a lawsuit against you), or those that you should know will arise in the future (individuals you have harmed that may not have realized the harm). If you have any of the above creditors, you can protect the assets you have that should not be needed to make your creditors whole. However, this analysis is difficult and very expensive ($15,000 – $20,000 just to come up with the amount of your assets that can be protected). Therefore, the time for engaging in asset protection is before you have any of the above types of creditors.

The most basic form of asset protection is to use an LLC to protect the assets inside the LLC from your personal creditors. Even though the level of asset protection available to both single member and multi-member LLCs has been suffering from adverse court decisions recently, we are still comfortable using LLCs for asset protection purposes. Setting up an LLC in Colorado is the most straightforward approach. As a result, the fee involved is the least when compared to other structures. We can set up an LLC in Colorado designed to hold passive investment assets for approximately $3,500 in legal fees plus expenses (such as the required filing of the Articles of Organization with the Colorado Secretary of State, which is currently $50). We regularly form LLCs in other jurisdictions to take advantage of other asset protection laws. We can typically form these LLCs for approximately $5,500 plus expenses.

The next step up the ladder with respect to asset protection is to use a domestic trust to hold your investments. Wyoming, South Dakota, Delaware and Alaska are great jurisdictions for forming domestic asset protection trusts. A trust formed in one of these jurisdictions (or another jurisdiction that has asset protection trust legislation, such as Nevada or Hawaii) is generally thought to have stronger asset protection than domestic business entities (such as LLCs). The fees involved for these structures differ depending on how the structure is implemented. However, the typical first year cost for a domestic asset protection trust, for instance, will be about $15,000 – $20,000 (including the fee of the trustee but exclusive of accounting and similar costs).

A foreign trust in an asset protection jurisdiction is generally considered to be the best asset protection structure for liquid assets. In just about every foreign asset protection trust we’ve set up, we have hired the accountant directly (foreign trust reporting to the IRS is both required and detailed). Therefore, including the cost of the required tax returns, the cost of establishing this type of structure is approximately $25,000 – $35,000.

How much does wealth transfer planning cost?
AWealth transfer planning is a very specialized practice. There are few generalities in this area. With this said, we can offer the following guidance.

We draft a lot of irrevocable life insurance trusts to hold life insurance policies outside of your future taxable estate. Many of our basic life insurance trusts cost $5,500 per person. If specialized planning is required in the trust (such as attempting to make the trust “non-grantor” or using special needs distribution provisions), the cost will go up accordingly (a cost of $7,500 is a good estimate for these specialized life insurance trusts).

There are a number of other trusts that we use to minimize your future estate tax. These trusts can cost from $5,500 to over $15,000.

How do you determine your fees?
AWhen we quote a flat fee engagement, we determine the fee based on three factors: the amount of time we anticipate working on the engagement, our level of expertise in the particular engagement, and the level of risk we are assuming by performing the engagement. When we perform an hourly engagement, our rates range from $550 – $1,500 per hour for senior attorneys, $160 – $240 per hour for paralegals, and $110 – $165 per hour for administrative assistants.