One of the most important things you can do for the ones you love is to create an estate plan. This process includes writing a will, which will help ensure you protect loved ones after you’re gone. Most people assume that writing a will is a costly ordeal that requires a lawyer, but you actually have a few options that could save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
We’ll cover how much a will costs and give you some cost-effective solutions to help you choose an option. The complexity and size of your estate are going to be key in determining which option is best for you!
Do You Need a Living Trust or a Will?
Including a living trust or will in your estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your finances and family are secure after your death.
According to the American Bar Association, if you die without a will, the state you reside in will have the power to distribute your assets according to that state’s laws. Creating a trust is more complicated, but if you don’t need to name any guardians for children and want a private settlement, it might be the right choice for you.
A will allows you to provide specific instructions on how you want your assets divvied up after your death. In addition to your property and personal possessions, you can also name a legal guardian to take care of any children that are minors upon your passing. You’ll then select an executor who will carry out your legal wishes.
|Goes through probate||Skips probate|
|Names legal guardians||Does not name guardians|
|Simple to make||Complex to make|
|Affordable||Can be costly|
|Names an executor||Does not name an executor|
Options for How To Make a Will
When people think of writing a will, they usually assume it’ll cost them thousands in attorney fees, but you do have options when it comes to writing a will. Some are more cost-effective than others — but it’s important that your will is legally binding and legitimate.
Three of the most common options for making a will are a holographic (handwritten) will, a do-it-yourself will that you create online, or a traditional will drawn up by a lawyer.
Cost of a Holographic Will
A holographic will is the most affordable option because it’s free. You must entirely handwrite and sign it, and meet all the state-specific requirements to be valid, which can be tricky if you’re unfamiliar with estate planning. Be sure to research the requirements for holographic wills in your state and talk to an expert if you are unsure about how to do it correctly. Any errors in your will could lead to consequences and potential problems for loved ones to sort out after your death.
A free holographic will may be a solution for you if you don’t have any dependents and have a relatively simple estate. However, it is not recommended if you have more complex assets and a family to protect.
Key takeaway: Creating a holographic will may seem appealing since there’s no associated cost, but it will likely cost you in the long term since it’s not truly legally binding if done wrong.
Cost of a Do-It-Yourself Will
A do-it-yourself will is another cost-effective option if you have a fairly simple estate, which changes from state to state, but is typically under $100,000. You can download free templates or purchase kits for about $20 that give you instructions on how to fill out the template, reducing the chances of making easy mistakes like in a holographic will.
You could also create a more customized will and ensure it’s legally binding by using an online will maker to avoid any errors. These companies will help you create the documents your estate plan will need as you start end-of-life planning. Prices for online wills can vary based on how many documents you create, monthly fees versus flat fees, and if an attorney provides guidance, but you can expect to pay upwards of $200.
Planning for your estate is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. These premade templates aren’t always the best option to account for the specifics of your estate — the state you live in, your goals, or your personal needs — and that’s when it might be time to consult a lawyer.
Key takeaway: Using an online will maker reduces the chance of error in your DIY will, but you should still have a lawyer check it over to ensure it holds up in court.
Cost of Making a Will with a Lawyer
If you have a complex estate, hiring a lawyer can be a great option to ensure your will is legally binding and error-free, but it can be expensive. A number of factors can influence the fees associated with hiring an attorney and can cost you several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Key takeaway: Hiring an attorney to draft your will is one of the best ways to ensure your estate plan is ironclad and free from loopholes or inconsistencies that can be challenged after your death.
1. Your Location
Each state has its own estate planning laws and requirements for a legally binding will, so it may be important to find a local lawyer to draw up your will who is familiar with your state ordinances. The cost of living where you reside will also influence how much your lawyer costs.
2. Your Estate’s Value
The larger and more complicated the estate, the more time your attorney will have to spend, meaning the more you’ll have to pay. Larger estates that are over $1 million may be better suited for a trust rather than a will, since trusts are more comprehensive and avoid the probate process, saving your beneficiaries time and money in the end. The more valuable your assets are, the more you can expect to pay for your will.
3. Your Attorney’s Experience Level
If you hire an attorney with over 20 years of experience, their fees will be significantly higher than a lawyer fresh out of law school. If you have a smaller and less complex estate, you may be able to save some money by hiring a less experienced attorney. If your estate is complex, it’s recommended that you hire an expert attorney that comes with a high price tag.
4. Your Attorney’s Fee Structure
Your attorney will either charge you a flat fee or an hourly fee for meeting with them and drawing up a will. If they charge an hourly fee, it’s important to at least get an estimate of the costs before you begin and know what their hourly rate is. Most lawyers charge between $100 and $400 per hour or more, depending on their experience level and the difficulty of the case.
If you’re aiming to save some money but still want the peace of mind that your will is complete, see if an attorney is willing to consult with you and look over the will you made yourself.
The Bottom Line
It’s never too early to begin planning for your future — and that includes your death. The passing of a loved one is already a stressful time, so having a plan in place for when it happens to you will ease the process for your friends and family.
You have options when it comes to writing a will, and you don’t have to empty your wallet to do it. The costs of putting together a will should not deter you from taking this important step to give you peace of mind and ensure you protect your loved ones.
Don’t leave your estate planning to chance. As you create your will, work with our team of experts to make sure you’re investing in the right places to set you and your family up for financial success.
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