Estate planning is one of the smartest things you can do for you and your loved ones. However, estate planning does involve cost and creating a will can vary in cost. We’ll break down the fees to see what best fits your budget and needs.
How Much Does It Cost To Make a Will?
There are several factors that come to play when establishing the cost to draft a will: size and complexity of an estate and how you actually go about completing your will.
You basically have three main options when it comes to creating your will:
- Do it yourself
- Use an online platform
- Work with an estate planning attorney
Do It Yourself Will
Anyone can create their own will and for those with small estates and limited assets, this may be a good option. However, it is important to keep in mind that there may be drawbacks to going this route. This is because estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all, so not having a good understanding of the state laws and requirements could end up invalidating your will. Therefore, if you plan on drafting your own will, you must feel confident that you have done proper research and educated yourself for the task, because if your will isn’t legally binding, or if the template you use doesn’t include everything you need, your estate will end up going through probate.
Online Will Maker
There are also many online programs that will create a will for you. Costs vary with different platforms but you should be aware that if you have a larger estate, using these sites is a little sketchy as there is no one overseeing your work. With so much at stake, it still might be a bit risky to not have someone in the field to offer the support and direction. After all, online platforms can offer you formatting and perhaps structure but not legal advice.
Hire an Attorney
An attorney who specializes in estate planning is a great choice because it offers protection and peace of mind that your will is comprehensive, valid and complete. However, unlike the other options, there are professional fees to pay for this service. Let’s further dive into how much it may cost you to hire a will attorney in Orange County.
Some attorneys charge by the hour and others charge a flat fee. A flat fee means attorneys don’t keep to an hourly accounting, but rather perform and charge for their experience and knowledge. It is common for an attorney to charge a flat fee to write a will and other basic estate planning documents. Sometimes, a flat fee arrangement lets everyone relax and makes for a better attorney-client relationship as you won’t feel reluctant to call or email with a question without feeling like the meter is running.
That said, you won’t find an attorney’s flat fee service on their website. An experienced attorney knows that everyone’s situation is different and having a talk with the client before providing a quote is crucial. You should anticipate anywhere between a $500-$1000 quote. Given the span, call around and see what fees are quoted by a few law firms. This will help you decide who is best fit for the job.
Some estate planning attorneys charge by the hour. The hourly rate will depend primarily on the attorney’s experience and location. If you are in a small town, you might find someone who bills at $150/hour, but if you’re in a large city, hourly rates could be as high as $700. An attorney who does nothing more than estate planning might charge on the higher end, but should also be more knowledgeable and efficient. One thing to note is that if the attorney employs associates or paralegals, their time is typically billed at a lower hourly rate and with the attorney’s supervision, you get a cost-effective deal by working with an associate and/or paralegal of the firm!
Will vs. Living Trust
Wills and trust can be confusing as some tend to believe they are one in the same. But they are not. A will handles how assets are distributed after your death and allows you to appoint a guardian for any minor children.
On the other hand, a living trust, is a more comprehensive estate planning tool that covers not just the issues that a will addresses, but also allows for the establishment of a medical and legal power-of-attorney if you become incapacitated. It also appoints a successor trustee to handle any legal and financial matters upon your death. Living trusts typically cost on average about $1,000 or so more to create, but are considered a more complete and comprehensive estate planning tool compared to a will.