- The cost of a will can range from nothing to $8,000, depending on how you write it.
- If your estate is more complex, it will likely cost you more to write a will.
- All of the experts we spoke to agreed that having some kind of willpower is better than none at all.
Planning what happens after you die isn’t fun, but it’s necessary to make sure your family can carry out your last wishes. A will specifies what happens to your assets and who is to care for any of your minor children in your absence.
We spoke to several experts to help us estimate the cost of creating a will and other estate planning documents. The price ranges of these items vary widely. Whatever your budget, every expert we spoke to agreed that having some form of will is better than not having one at all. Most recommend writing a will as soon as possible after becoming an adult.
How the different types of wills work
This is a handwritten will, which is freeminus the piece of paper you write it on and probably minimal notary fees.
“If you’re considering writing a holographic will, make it as comprehensive as possible so it doesn’t create problems for your family after you die,” says Erin Bury, CEO of online wills platform Willful. “And I note that holograph wills are not valid in some states.”
‘Fill-in-the-blank’ will be
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 libs for estate planning,” Bury says. “They’re not personalized. They fill in the blanks. But unlike a holograph will, there’s a template so you don’t have to figure out what to write.”
There are several websites you can use to create a will from the comfort of your own 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 varies 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 a lawyer and go over your situation. You will get personalized estate planning documents and the cost of a lawyer varies greatly. You can pay as little as $250 or up to $8,000 or more.
“I would consider it an investment or an insurance plan,” says Rochelle Schultz, an attorney at estate planning law firm Weinstock Manion. “It’s not something you have to do often, it’s not a cost you’re going to 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 cost of an average estate plan, which would include more than just your will, is probably around $4,500 to $8,500,” Schultz says.
Patrick Hicks, chief legal officer at Trust and Will, says high-cost locations also typically require more than just a will for estate planning. “In many cases, these high-priced locations, it’s incredibly rare to have that willpower alone,” Hicks says. “So the $1,500 that you might see for a Will in San Francisco will almost never be the option for a variety of reasons. A Will in Topeka might cost $500 and be fine, but you’ll have to pay more in San Francisco.”
The complexity of your assets: This includes factors such as probate requirements in different states, the number of children you have, your unique asset types, and any charitable gifts or donations you would like to make.
Jack Hales, probate and estate lawyer at Hales and Sellers, said the cost of your estate plan can vary greatly depending on what you need to do. “At the lowest, if you need a simple will, powers of attorney and nothing fancy, it will cost $750 for an individual. For a married couple, it’s $1,200. Once you put set up an estate plan with a revocable trust and more, it will cost at least $3000 and then depending on your assets you can add a few hundred or thousands more.
How involved do you want to be in the process: Most of the time, when you hire a lawyer to write a will, you pay by the hour. If you have a lot of questions to ask, it will cost you more. Bury recommends going to the office with some key decisions already made. She says you can find resources online about common decisions in the estate planning process and prepare your answers ahead of time.
What type of will you choose: As stated above, the type of will you choose has a significant impact on the cost. A will created by a lawyer will cost more than a holographic will. Lawyers may also charge different rates depending on their level of experience in the field.
Obtain a notarized will: It’s not a big cost and will usually 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 define wills as living and breathing documents and suggest that you should update them every five to ten years or whenever you experience a major life event like childbirth or a death. divorce. Bury recommends reviewing your will every year, even if you don’t make any changes.
The cost of updating your will varies depending on the complexity and the firm you use. Small changes involving a lawyer can cost you a few hundred dollars, while updating your will through an online platform might only cost you $20.
What other documents often accompany a will?
The experts we spoke with agreed that it’s rare to get a will alone, and quite often there are common documents that you’ll combine with this one to create your complete estate plan. These may include:
- Enduring power of attorney: An enduring power of attorney gives a person the legal power to act on behalf of another person to manage their property or financial affairs. In estate planning, an enduring power of attorney comes into play when you are unable to make decisions on your own due to a mental or physical disability.
- Medical power of attorney: A health care power of attorney designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to.
- Revocable Trust: Trusts are designed for a trustee to manage and distribute assets to beneficiaries after a person dies. Revocable trusts allow the person to change their instructions or end the trust entirely during their lifetime. With a revocable trust, beneficiaries can avoid probate court and guardianship or guardianship proceedings.
What are the fee structures for a will?
You may be charged:
- Hourly : You will pay by the hour for the time spent writing your will.
- Flat rate : You will pay a predefined rate to create your will.
- On the menu: You will decide which estate planning documents you want to include and you will pay per item. This is a rarer option.
Visiting multiple law firms is the primary way to get a price comparison, although some sites and firms have listed rates. There are no “will markets” similar to student loan sites like Credible and Splash Financial, for example.
“Honestly, it’s disturbing how difficult 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 a lawyer’s office,” says Hicks. .