The Average Cost of Making a Will

By Beverly Bird

The cost of any legal endeavor depends on whether you decide to handle it yourself or use the services of an attorney. You can access free templates online or pay for something more complex, or you can pay an attorney to do it all for you. Whether you use an attorney to draft your will or do it yourself, costs will depend on the complexity of your estate. If neither option appeals to you, you can compromise on a “hybrid” approach.

The cost of any legal endeavor depends on whether you decide to handle it yourself or use the services of an attorney. You can access free templates online or pay for something more complex, or you can pay an attorney to do it all for you. Whether you use an attorney to draft your will or do it yourself, costs will depend on the complexity of your estate. If neither option appeals to you, you can compromise on a “hybrid” approach.

Using an Attorney

Some attorneys who specialize in estate matters offer will “packages." Don't confuse these with those you might purchase online or at an office supply store. Attorney packages usually include at least one meeting with the lawyer. The attorney then draws up your will according to your specifications. If you’re requesting only a will, the minimum cost can run from $150 to $600, for an average cost of about $375. If any complications or problems arise, the attorney might bill you for more time at his hourly rate. If you want more than just a will, such as a power of attorney and other estate planning documents, the cost can rise to $1,000 if you’re single or $1,500 if you’re married and requesting joint documents.

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Do-it-Yourself Kits

Purchasing a will kit and creating your own documents is a far less expensive alternative than using a lawyer, but you get what you pay for. Kits tend to be generic, and you run the risk that the forms you purchase will not adequately address your personal situation or meet your state's laws. Some websites sell them for as little as $10, although others charge as much as $650 for an entire package of documents, including a living will and powers of attorney for both your finances and health care.

Attorney Consultation

If you choose to write your own will, either by using a kit or by accessing free formats to follow from your state’s website or a library, you can safeguard against errors by having an attorney review your completed document. In this case, you would pay the attorney by the hour, as opposed to a flat fee for combined consulting and writing your will or all your estate documents. Attorneys’ hourly rates are generally more affordable in rural areas and higher in large metropolitan areas. The former can average as little as $100 an hour; the latter might average $400 an hour or more. Plan on the attorney spending at least one hour on the review of your documents. If you require complex needs such as trust formation then expect more time and a larger bill.

Legal Aid

Your inability to afford an attorney or a high-priced will kit does not necessarily mean you do not need a will. Wills can address guardianship of your children as well as financial issues, assets and bequests. All states offer legal aid to low-income individuals, although income limits may vary. The average cost is usually minimal and if your income is low enough, services are sometimes free. Check the Internet or your local telephone directory for legal aid in your area.

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Preparing a Will

Planning for the future includes deciding how you want to divide your assets after your death. Wills and trusts outline your financial wishes, and may also provide your descendants and the courts with instructions regarding the guardianship of your minor children or other dependents. Although many companies provide will forms for individuals to complete their own wills, having an attorney review your document will ensure that it meets your state’s legal standards.

Cost of Making a Will

Thousands of people pass away each year without leaving behind any formal instructions for administration of their estates. This is likely due, at least in part, to the misconception that making a will is a prohibitive expense. In reality, the cost of establishing a will is almost always directly tied to the size of your estate. Most testators with simple estates and nominal net worth can expect to pay as little as $100 for retaining an attorney to make a will, and even less to draft a will themselves. The higher your estate’s net worth, the more you can expect to pay for creating a will.

What is a Will & Trust Kit?

A will and trust kit provides forms and instructions for a person who wants to make a will or create a living trust. Wills and living trusts are common estate planning tools used to plan for the distribution of property after one's death. A will is a written document with directions for estate distribution, while a living trust is an agreement used to manage assets while a person is still living and after their death. If you're considering a will and trust kit, you'll need to evaluate the different types available and their associated benefits and drawbacks.

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