Legal Fees & Wills

by Rob Jennings
    Legal fees for wills and estate matters can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

    Legal fees for wills and estate matters can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

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    Among the many concerns attendant to the preparation of your will and the eventual administration of your estate is the issue of legal fees. As is the case with any other type of legal service, attorney fees in connection with matters of wills and estates depend upon a variety of factors.

    Types

    Legal fees for a will preparation can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. While many attorneys charge a flat fee for simple will preparation, complex estates involving a multitude of assets and trusts can require additional charges. In assisting an executor in administering a decedent's estate, a lawyer may bill the estate on an hourly basis for all services performed and collect his fee out of the estate proceeds. Alternatively, the lawyer may receive a percentage share of the estate upon its closure. A good rule of thumb is the greater the complexity of the work, the higher the attorney fee.

    Experience Level of the Attorney

    While the complexity of the task at hand is an important determinant of legal fees, the experience level of the attorney in question is also important. Expect to pay more for seasoned lawyers with two or three decades of experience in preparing wills, administering estates and litigating will cases, and more still for lawyers who specialize in wills and estates practice. Young attorneys fresh out of law school, however, generally charge lower fees, but their lower experience level may make them unsuited to handle complex cases.

    Geographic Location

    "Location, location, location" may be the three most important factors in real estate, but they are also critical in determining legal fees. In urban areas with a high cost of living, clients can expect to pay more for every legal service than their counterparts in rural areas or cheaper cities. While this owes a lot to the higher overhead costs -- office space, personnel, utilities -- attendant to big cities, it is also influenced by the presence of a generally higher concentration of wealthier clients with complex estates, which creates a higher demand for skillful lawyers.

    Considerations

    The type of office in which a lawyer practices can have a marked effect on what she charges to prepare even a simple will. Solo practitioners or firms comprised of only a few lawyers usually face lower overhead costs than their big firm colleagues, enabling them to offer legal services at a lower cost. Large firms where the attorneys must support a large staff have to charge more for each service than their smaller counterparts. While larger firms can offer you a wider variety of expertise in many practice areas, they may charge as much for their entry-level associates' time as smaller firms charge for a letterhead partner.

    About the Author

    A practicing attorney since 2003, Rob Jennings has written fiction and nonfiction since 2005, with his work appearing in a variety of print and online publications. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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