Estate Planning Costs

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF® | Reviewed by Editorial Team

Updated on January 04, 2023

Importance of Estate Planning

Estate planning defines how to manage your estate following your death or incapacity. The process comprises the distribution of assets to heirs, the payment of estate taxes, and the coordination of burial arrangements.

Most estate plans contain funds in bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies as assets. Real land, vehicles, business interests, works of art, and even debt are part of these.

Estate planning can minimize taxes and other costs while allowing you to protect the interest of your loved ones and the value of your assets.

Types of Estate Planning Fees

The types of fees you may encounter when engaging in estate planning services can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the services provided. The common ones are:

Hourly Rate

Many estate planning lawyers charge a standard hourly rate for their services. In drafting an estate plan, the lawyer usually charges in 15-minute increments. Hourly rates vary widely depending on the lawyer’s experience, location, and other relevant factors.

Flat Fee

Some estate planning lawyers offer a flat fee for their services, meaning the client pays a set amount regardless of the time spent on the estate plan. Flat fees may be more predictable for the client but are not advisable for complex estates requiring more time and work.

Contingency Fee

Estate state planning lawyers may charge a contingency fee, meaning they receive a percentage of the estate as payment for their services. Such is applied in probate or trust litigation cases where the outcome is uncertain.

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It is important to discuss fee structures with an estate planning lawyer before beginning any work so that you can clearly understand the costs involved and make an informed decision.

Costs of Common Estate Planning Documents

A thorough estate plan typically contains estate planning documents. These documents include a trust or a will, a durable power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney.

Wills and Trusts

A will is a legal document that specifies how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. A trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee, who holds and manages the assets for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. 

Depending on the state and the lawyer's fee structure, the typical cost of drafting a will is around $500. If you opt to create a will yourself, you can also look up for free templates online.

Trusts are often costly to establish. A lawyer will typically charge approximately $2,000 to draft a trust.

Durable Power of Attorney

A general durable power of attorney permits someone to act in a wide range of legal and business concerns. It continues in effect even if you become incapacitated. The document is often known as a durable power of attorney for finances. 

While the cost of having a lawyer produce a durable power of attorney varies by state, the average cost for drafting one is $375.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is helpful if a medical emergency renders you unconscious or unable to make decisions regarding your care. It appoints someone else to speak with doctors and make medical choices on your behalf.

Using a lawyer to prepare your health care advance directive can cost you between $250 and $300 per hour.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent also called a personal directive or living will, is a document that outlines your preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care. This document is typically not legally binding but can guide your healthcare power of attorney and other loved ones. 

A business lawyer's hourly charge for drafting a letter of intent ranges from $200 to $350 per hour.

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The costs of creating these documents can vary depending on the lawyer’s hourly rate, the complexity of the estate, and other factors. 

Factors That Affect Estate Planning Costs

Estate planning costs can vary significantly depending on the individual circumstances and needs of the person planning their estate.

  • Complexity of the Estate: The more complex the estate is, the more time and resources it may take to plan its distribution correctly. Examples are real estate, businesses, stocks and bonds, and other investments.
  • Size of the Estate: Generally, the larger the estate, the more expensive it will be to plan for its distribution. More assets mean more paperwork and legal procedures that need to be completed.
  • Location of the Estate: Estate planning costs can also be affected by the location of the assets. For example, suppose the assets are located in multiple states or countries. In that case, it may be more costly to plan their distribution.
  • Type of Documents Needed: Documents needed for estate planning can also affect the cost. A simple will may be less expensive than a trust.
  • Lawyer’s Fees: Lawyer’s fees are a significant factor in the cost of estate planning. Lawyers charge different rates depending on their experience, location, and other factors.

Tips to Minimize Your Estate Planning Costs

Planning ahead of time can help you minimize estate planning costs. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Choose the Right Lawyer

Look for lawyers specializing in estate planning, and compare their reviews. A specialized lawyer can handle your case efficiently, which could result in lower fees. 

Prepare Ahead

It is helpful to gather important documents, such as deeds, titles, insurance policies, and financial statements. You can save time and money by making it easier for your lawyer to understand your estate and develop a plan.

Discuss Money Upfront

It is important to clearly understand the costs associated with estate planning from the onset. Ask your lawyer about their fees and other costs you may incur, such as appraisal fees or tax preparation fees.

Request a Quote and Negotiate

If you are unsatisfied with the fees quoted by one lawyer, consider requesting quotes from multiple lawyers. You can negotiate lower fees by agreeing to a flat fee or a lower hourly rate.

Have a Written Agreement

It is essential to have a written agreement with your lawyer outlining the terms of the representation and the costs associated with the estate planning process. 

Estate Planning Lawyer vs DIY Estate Planning

Consider the following possibilities when deciding who should create your estate plan:

Estate Planning Lawyer 

An estate planning lawyer has the training and experience necessary to understand the complex legal issues involved in estate planning. They can help ensure that your estate plan is properly structured and meets all necessary legal requirements.

An estate planning lawyer can work with you to create a customized estate plan that meets your specific needs and goals and help provide legal protections for your assets and ensure that your wishes are carried out according to your instructions.

However, working with an estate planning lawyer can be more expensive than doing it yourself, as lawyers charge fees for their services. You may have limited control over the process, as the lawyer will handle the majority of the work.

DIY Estate Planning

Planning your estate on your own is sometimes a good option. A DIY estate plan is excellent if you are young, have just acquired a few assets, and have more time than money to protect them. 

It will teach you about the process and emphasize the necessity of planning for you and your family's future as you learn.

It can be more cost-effective than hiring an estate planning lawyer and allows for better control of your time and decisions. 

However, without the expertise and experience of a lawyer, you may not be fully aware of all of the legal issues involved in estate planning which can lead to errors and omissions.

Where to Find Estate Planning Lawyers and DIY Estate Planning Resources

Whether you seek expert advice from an estate planning lawyer or opt for a lower-cost do-it-yourself route, find out where to get started.

  • Estate Planning Lawyers: You can get help from estate planning lawyers or find a firm in your area. You can try asking for recommendations from friends, family, or other professionals. You can also check with your local base association for a list of lawyers in your area.
  • DIY Estate Planning Resources: There are many online resources and software programs available that can help you create a basic estate plan on your own. Some options include Freewill, Trust and Will, and Wealth.  

The Bottom Line

Estate planning defines how to manage your estate following your death or incapacity. The process comprises the distribution of assets to heirs, the payment of estate taxes, and the coordination of burial arrangements.

There are several fees that you may encounter when engaging in estate planning services, including hourly rates, flat fees, and contingency fees. It is important to discuss fee structures with an estate planning lawyer before beginning any work. 

Common estate planning documents are wills and trusts, power of attorney documents, healthcare directives, and deeds. The costs of creating these documents can vary depending on the complexity of your estate and the lawyer’s fees.

There are also ways to minimize estate planning costs, such as using online resources and working with an estate planning lawyer.

Estate Planning FAQs

What is the average cost of an estate plan?

The average cost of an estate plan will include costs related to creating a will ($500 flat fee), trust ($2000 retainer fee), durable power of attorney ($375 flat fee), healthcare power of attorney ($250-$300) and letter of intent ($250-$350).

What is the cost of setting up a trust?

The cost of setting up a trust can vary widely depending on the complexity of the trust and the specific goals of the trust. Some trusts may be simple and inexpensive, while others may be more complex and costly.

What are ways to reduce the cost of estate planning?

The ways to reduce estate planning costs are choosing the right lawyer, preparing ahead, discussing money upfront, requesting a quote and negotiating, and having a written agreement or contract.

What documents are involved in estate planning?

The documents involved in estate planning are will, trust, power of attorney, healthcare directive, and beneficiary designations.

Is it worth hiring a lawyer for estate planning?

Yes, hiring an estate planning lawyer can be worth it. Lawyers are trained in the legal aspects of estate planning and can help individuals create a plan that meets their specific needs and goals. They can also provide valuable guidance on issues such as tax planning and asset protection.

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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