Fees associated with or without an attorney

  • The cost of a will can range from nothing to $8,000, depending on how you make it.
  • If your estate is more complex, it will likely cost more money to make a will.
  • All the experts we talked to agreed that having some kind of will is better than having none at all.

Planning what will happen after your death is not a fun topic, but it is necessary to make sure that your family can fulfill your last wishes. A will specifies what will happen to your assets and who will care for your minor children when you are gone.

We spoke with several experts to help estimate the cost of creating a will and other estate planning documents. The cost ranges for these items vary significantly. Whatever your budget, all the experts we talked to agreed that having some form of a will is better than not having one at all. Most recommend creating a will as soon as possible once you become an adult.

How the different types of wills work

holographic testament

This is a handwritten will, which is freeminus the paper you are writing it on and probably a small notary fee.

“If you’re going to write a holographic will, make it as complete as possible so it doesn’t create problems for your family after you’re gone,” says Erin Bury, CEO of online will platform Willful. “And I would like to point out that holographic wills are not valid in certain states.”

Willingness to ‘fill in the blanks’

You can buy will kits at many office supply stores and the cost ranges from $20 to $40depending on where you get it.

“I call them crazy freedoms for estate planning,” says Bury. “They’re not personalized. They’re to fill in the blanks. But unlike a holographic will, there’s a template so you don’t have to know what to write.”

online testament

There are several websites you can use to create a will from the comfort of your home, including Trust and Will and Willful. These websites will offer templates for your financial situation and the state you live in, created by local attorneys. The cost goes from $99 to $200.

Will with a lawyer

This is the more traditional way many people think of creating a will, where you sit down with an attorney and discuss your situation. You’ll get personalized estate planning documents, and the cost of an attorney varies significantly. you can pay as little as $250 or as much as $8,000 or more.

“I would consider it an investment or an insurance plan,” says Rochelle Schultz, an attorney at the Weinstock Manion estate planning law firm. “It’s not something you’ll have to do frequently, it’s not a cost you’ll incur forever.”

What factors go into the cost of a will?

State of residence: Where you live has a significant impact on the cost of your will. “In Los Angeles, where I practice, the average cost of an estate plan, which would include more than just your will, is probably around $4,500 to $8,500,” says Schultz.

Patrick Hicks, legal director of Trust and Will, says higher-cost locations also typically require more than a will for estate planning. “In a lot of cases, those high-priced locations, it’s incredibly rare to have that alone,” says Hicks. “So the $1,500 you might see for a San Francisco will will almost never be the option of choice for a variety of reasons. A Topeka will might cost $500 and be adequate, but you’ll have to pay more in San Francisco.”

The complexity of your heritage: This includes factors such as probate requirements in different states, the number of children you have, your unique asset types, and any gifts or charitable donations you’d like to make.

Jack Hales, an estate and probate attorney with Hales and Sellers, said the cost of your estate plan can vary widely depending on what you need to do. “At the low end, if you need a simple will, powers of attorney and nothing fancy, it’s going to cost you $750 for an individual. For a married couple, it’s $1,200. Once you start setting up an estate plan with a revocable trust and plus, it’ll cost at least $3,000. And then, depending on your assets, you can add a few extra hundreds or thousands.”

How involved you want to be in the process: Most of the time when you use an attorney to draft a will, you will pay by the hour. If you have a lot of questions to ask, it will cost you more. Bury recommends going into the office with a few key decisions already made. She says she can find resources online about common decisions in the estate planning process and prepare her answers ahead of time.

What type of will will you choose?: As stated above, the type of will you choose has a significant impact on the cost. A will created by an attorney will cost more than a holographic will. Attorneys may also charge different rates commensurate with their level of experience in the field.

Obtaining a notarized willNote: This isn’t a significant cost and will typically set you back around $10, says Indrika Arnold, senior wealth advisor at The Colony Group.

How often should you update your will?

Most of the experts we spoke with defined wills as living, breathing documents and suggest you should update them every five to 10 years or whenever you’re faced with a major life event like childbirth or divorce. Bury recommends reviewing his will annually, even if he doesn’t make any changes to it.

The cost of updating your will varies depending on the complexity and the company you use. Small changes with an attorney can cost you a few hundred dollars, while updating your will through an online platform can cost as little as $20.

What other documents often come with a will?

The experts we spoke with agreed that it’s rare to get a will on its own, and there are often common documents that you’ll combine with it to create your comprehensive estate plan. These may include:

  • Durable power of attorney: A durable power of attorney gives legal authority for one person to act on behalf of another person to manage their assets or financial affairs. In estate planning, a durable power of attorney comes into play when you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to mental or physical disability.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney: A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer do so.
  • Revocable Trust: Trusts are designed for a trustee to manage and distribute assets to beneficiaries after a person’s death. Revocable trusts allow the person to change her instructions or terminate the trust entirely during her lifetime. With a revocable trust, beneficiaries can avoid probate and conservatorship court proceedings.

What are the fee structures for a will?

You may be charged:

  • Hourly: You will pay by the hour for the time spent preparing your will.
  • Flat rate: You will pay a fixed, predefined fee to create your will.
  • To the letter: You will decide which estate planning documents you want to include and pay per item. This is a rarer option.

Visiting the offices of several attorneys is the primary way to get a price comparison, although some sites and firms have fee schedules. There are no “will marketplaces” similar to student loan sites like Credible and Splash Financial, for example.

“Honestly, it’s concerning how hard it is for an individual consumer to understand pricing structures, because you don’t know what you’re going to get even when you’re sitting in the attorney’s office,” says Hicks.

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