Cost of Making a Will

By Carrie Ferland

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.

Making a Basic Will

A basic will is suitable for “simple” estates with less than $1 million in total assets. For the majority who fit this criterion, a basic will is more than sufficient to protect the testator’s interests. You can establish your own basic will using pre-made forms or templates, which can cost around $10 to $150, depending on the services included. Will-making software, which generates a will for you based on your input, can cost around $20 to $100, and you can re-use the software to update your will whenever you need.

Making a Complex Will

For estates with a combined net worth exceeding $1 million, or with a significant number of assets, a complex will is usually more appropriate. Most “do-it-yourself” services available to consumers are not suitable for complex wills, so it is more advisable to retain an attorney to draft your will. An experienced attorney can draft your entire will for as little as $250, although if you have significant assets or confusing circumstances, you can expect to pay as much as $5,000.

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Making a Will with a Living Trust

If you want to establish a living trust along with your will, you can expect to pay significantly more in up-front costs. While your estate does not require funding at the time you establish your will, your living trust does, and you cannot form the trust until you have the assets to do so. On the plus side, your costs are directly tied to the worth of your living trust — if you only intend to form a trust to manage $50,000 in assets, then this is your only expense in addition to the costs you incur establishing your will.

Making a Will as a Business Owner

Business owners can expect to pay about twice the costs of writing a will, depending on the value of their estates. If your business is your only significant asset, for example, a basic will may still be the appropriate choice, so you can expect to pay between $250 and $500 to establish your will. If you own or control multiple businesses, or you hold significant assets in addition to your business, you can expect to pay around $5,000 to $10,000 to retain an attorney to create your will.

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Living Trust Costs

It’s said that you get what you pay for, so it only makes sense that the simpler your estate plan is, the less you’ll have to come out of pocket to arrange for it. If you own considerable assets, however, or if you want to provide for other eventualities in addition to your death, a living trust might be in order. It will cost a little more upfront, but it can save your estate the costs of probate in the end.

What Is the Average Cost to Prepare a Living Trust?

When considering an estate plan, many people contemplate whether a trust is necessary or a will alone is suitable. The choice is often based on cost. Depending on whether an attorney is hired, a trust can be considerably more costly than a will. The key is finding a balance between cost and creating an estate plan that fits your family’s needs.

How to Make My Own Will Free of Charge

Writing your own will is a process that does not need to cost money. If you have limited assets and straightforward child custody plans or no minor children, making your own will free of charge may be an option for you. If you have a complex financial portfolio or your children will require special care or financial arrangements, however, you may wish to speak to an experienced attorney in your state about the details of your will.

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