Trust me, there's no minimum

DEAR BRUCE: I would like to set up a trust fund. Is there a minimum amount that one needs to set up a trust fund? I'm really not that familiar with them and need some guidance. Someone told me that a trust fund had to be more than $1 million, but this doesn't seem right to me. How much money does one need to have in order to set up a trust fund? — Terry in Arizona

DEAR TERRY: The one major difference between a will that is properly filed and probated and a trust fund is that a probated will is a matter of public record and anyone can get a copy for a few dollars. As far as how much money can be put into a trust fund, there is no legal minimum. There are some practical reasons why a trust fund should or should not be set up. Often trusts are set up to avoid probate. These are called living trusts. Probating a will has been turned into such a feared thing that people are terrified of it, and there's really no reason for that. While it can be time-consuming in a complicated estate, in a simple estate it should not be difficult to achieve.

DEAR BRUCE: We are having such a difficult time these days keeping our heads above water. We are being bombarded with "debt settlement" advertisements. What is your opinion of debt settlement, and are there any creditable debt settlement companies that a person can trust? — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: There are tons of "debt settlement" companies running ads on the radio and television. They are looking for people like you who need help to lower their debt. While some companies handle this in a reasonably ethical manner, many do not. Be very careful of upfront monies. While there might be a good reason for some money up front, this is the one avenue that makes many people who are in hock very vulnerable. Also make sure you get references and try to work out an arrangement where they get a deal then they get paid. Many will drop you as soon as you ask for that, which gives you a loose idea of their legitimacy.


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