- The cost of a will could range from nothing to $8,000, depending on how you make it.
- If your estate is more complex, it will likely cost you more money to make a will.
- Every expert we talked to agreed having some kind of will is better than none at all.
Planning for what happens after you die isn’t a fun topic, but it’s necessary to make sure your family can carry out your final wishes. A will specifies what becomes of your assets and who is to care for any of your minor children when you’re gone.
We talked to several experts to help estimate the cost of creating a will and other estate planning documents. The cost ranges on these items vary significantly. Whatever your budget, every expert we talked to agreed that having some form of a will is better than not having one at all. Most recommended creating a will as soon as possible once you become an adult.
How different types of wills work
This is a handwritten will, which is freeminus the piece of paper you’re writing it on and likely a small notary fee.
“If you are going to draft a holographic will, make it as comprehensive as possible so that it doesn’t create issues for your family after you pass away,” says Erin Bury, CEO of online will platform Willful. “And I would note that the holographic will are not valid in certain states.”
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 mad libs for estate planning,” Bury says. “They’re not customized. They’re fill in the blank documents. But unlike a holographic will, there’s a template so you don’t have to know what to put down.”
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 lawyers. The cost ranges from $99 to $200†
Will with a lawyer
This is the most traditional way many people think about creating a will, where you sit down with a lawyer and go over your situation. You’ll get customized estate planning documents and and the cost for a lawyer varies significantly. you may pay as little as $250 or as much as $8,000 or more†
“I would think of it as an investment or an insurance plan,” says Rochelle Schultz, an attorney with the estate planning law firm Weinstock Manion. “It’s not something that you’re going to need 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, head of legal at Trust and Will, says higher-cost locations also usually require more than just a will for estate planning. “In many cases those high-price locations, it’s incredibly uncommon to have that will alone,” Hicks says. “So that $1,500 you might see for a will in San Francisco is almost never going to be the option chosen for for a variety of reasons. A will in Topeka might cost $500 and be suitable, but you’ll need to pay more in San Francisco.”
The complexity of your estate: This includes factors such as the 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 at Hales and Sellers, said the cost of your estate plan can vary widely depending on what you need done. “At the absolute lowest end, if you need a simple will, powers of attorney, and nothing fancy, it’ll cost $750 for an individual. For a married couple, it’s $1,200. Once you get into setting up an estate plan with a revocable trust and more, it’ll cost least $3,000. And then, depending on your assets, you may add a few extra hudreds or thousands.”
How involved you want to be in the process: Most of the time when you are using a lawyer to craft a will, you’ll be paying by the hour. If you have many questions to ask, it will cost you more. Bury recommends going into 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 noted 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 commensurate with their level of experience in the field.
Getting will notarized: This isn’t a significant cost and will usually run you about $10, says Indrika Arnold, a 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 ten years or whenever you undergo a major life event such as childbirth or a divorce. Bury recommends reviewing your will annually, even if you don’t make any changes to it.
The cost of updating your will varies depending on the complexity and the firm you use. Small changes using a lawyer may cost you a few hundred dollars, while updating your will through an online platform may only cost you $20.
What other documents often come along with a will?
The experts we spoke with agreed that it’s uncommon to get a will by itself, and that many times there are 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 property 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.
- Healthcare power of attorney: A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able.
- Revocable trust: Trusts are designed to have a trustee manage and distribute the assets to beneficiaries after a person’s death. Revocable trusts allow the person to change its instructions or terminate the trust entirely during their lifetime. With a revocable trust, beneficiaries may avoid probate court and guardianship or conservatorship proceedings.
What are the fee structures for a will?
you may be charged:
- Hourly: You’ll pay by the hour for the time spent crafting your will.
- flat fee: You’ll pay a predefined set rate to create your will.
- On an a la carte basis: You’ll decide what estate planning documents you want to include and pay per item. This is a rarer option.
Visiting multiple lawyer’s offices is the main way to get a price comparison, though some sites and firms do have rates listed. There aren’t “will marketplaces” similar to student loan sites like Credible and Splash Financial, for example.
“Honestly, it’s troubling how hard it is for an individual consumer to understand the price structures, because you don’t know what you’re gonna get even when you’re sitting in the lawyer’s office,” Hicks says.