What Does an Average Estate Plan Cost? (Detailed Price Analysis)

The total cost of your estate plan will depend on whether you want to hire an attorney, are doing it yourself, or choose to use an inexpensive web service like FindLaw's. Having an attorney draft a complete estate plan can be pretty pricey once everything is arranged and done.

Typical Estate Planning Documents

Each of the following documents serves a different purpose and should be completed to accomplish your estate planning goals. Below you will find details about what each document does, how it benefits you and your estate, and how much drafting the document typically costs.

1. Last Will and Testament

last will and testament is a legal document that states your wishes for how you want your money and property to be distributed after you die. It is the beginning of a basic estate plan, and it should be completed by everyone.

The average cost of having an attorney draft a will is about $500.00, depending on the state and the attorney's fee structure.

2. Advance Directive for Health Care

An advance health care directive is a legal document that is often known as a "living will" and is specifically designed to allow you to advocate for yourself regarding end-of-life care. A living will only applies to end-of-life care, so if you want someone else to be making medical decisions on your behalf at other times, you should give someone durable power of attorney for health care.

Using an attorney to draft your advance directive for health care may cost you between $250 and $300 per hour.

3. Power of Attorney

power of attorney is a legal document that protects your interests if you become incapacitated in some way. If you have no advance directive for health care, power of attorney will even let someone else make decisions on your behalf regarding your treatment of end-of-life illness. In any estate plan, a power of attorney is vital for protecting your interests in case of incapacity. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia or are otherwise incompetent and unable to make their own decisions may benefit from giving someone medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, or general power of attorney.

While the cost to have a lawyer prepare a durable medical power of attorney can vary from state to state, the average price for drafting a power of attorney is $375. 

4. Revocable Living Trust

Revocable living trusts are trusts established by a grantor—the person who created the trust—and allow the grantor to retain custody of their assets in the trust while transferring legal ownership. A revocable living trust names the grantor as trustee so that they can continue to use and manage assets like a business or a home while transferring ownership to the trust. A revocable living trust can be changed during the grantor's lifetime. It becomes irrevocable (or permanent) after the grantor dies.

Trusts help family members to avoid probate. Probating a will is the legal process through which property is transferred from a testator (the person making the will) to the beneficiary. Trusts help avoid probate because, while the grantor keeps possession of the property until they die, the property itself is not included in the estate. Thus it cannot be accessed by creditors or used to repay other debts after the grantor's death.

Trusts are typically expensive to create. On average, a trust costs around $2,000 to have an attorney draft.

Average Cost for Typical Estate Documents

Below are the typical costs for basic estate plan documents. These documents should be included in a comprehensive estate plan.

Last Will and Testament $500 flat fee
Advance Directive $250-$300 hourly rate
Power of Attorney $375 flat fee
Revocable Living Trust $2,000 retainer

Typical Attorney Fee Structures

There are two types of fee structures that attorneys typically use. Typical fee structures include flat fees and hourly fees. An attorney will discuss their fee structure with you during your initial consultation. Fee structures vary by firm, but below are examples of common fee structures, including:

1. Flat Fee

A flat fee is a one-time charge for services. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for services that may not take a significant amount of time. That being the case, if your attorney agrees to a flat fee for their services, they may not be willing to handle a more complex estate.

An estate planning attorney who agrees to a flat rate may not draft other estate documents besides a last will and testament, such as a trust or power of attorney. If your estate plan is not complex, a one-time, flat fee may be an excellent way to save on costs.

2. Billable Hours

Most attorneys, including estate planning attorneys, charge based on billable hours. A billable hour is an increment of time the client is charged for. Most attorneys tend to charge by the hour for more complex projects. If your estate requires much more attention and needs the attorney to draft complex documents, they may want to charge you by the hour for their work.

Examples of billable expenses may include:

  • Team meetings among your attorney, their colleagues, and others to discuss your estate plan
  • Legal research
  • Communication with you and with the attorney's team
  • Drafting your documents

FindLaw Offers Do-It-Yourself Options

FindLaw's team of attorneys has created do-it-yourself options to help you reduce the cost of estate planning. FindLaw can help you build a quality estate plan inexpensively and from the comfort of your own home.

Additional Questions?

Estate planning does not have to be expensive. You can reduce the cost of attorney's fees by using FindLaw's estate-planning forms that are state-specific and legally valid. Check out FindLaw's website to draft your own advance directives, wills, and power of attorney. If you have a more complex case and want to speak to a qualified estate planning attorney for legal advice, check out FindLaw's attorney directory here.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • DIY is possible in some simple cases
  • Complex estate planning situations usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer can reduce the chances of a family dispute
  • You can always have an attorney review your forms

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