How much does it cost to make a will? It depends on several key factors, including whether you hire an attorney or do it yourself. Here's a guide...
Have you ever asked yourself “how much does a will cost?” You’re not alone.
The short answer is it depends.
The cost of a will can vary greatly depending on whether you use an attorney, your location, the size and complexity of your estate, and more. If you use an attorney, expect anywhere from $300 to $1,000 for a very basic will. If you use an online will tool, it can be much cheaper but carries some risk.
We break it down for you in this article.
A proper estate plan prepared by a lawyer can include a range of documents. But the cornerstone of your plan is a will (also called a last will and testament). A will details how you want your estate to be handled after you die-who gets your assets, who will manage your estate, and many other considerations.
Estate planning attorneys typically charge anywhere from $300 to $1,000 to create a basic will. More complex estates can cost more than $2,000 in some areas of the country. That’s a wide range, and it’s because the cost to make a will can vary greatly depending on your location and the complexity of your estate. For example, a lawyer in New York City is likely to charge a higher price than a lawyer in a small rural town, and a complex estate will take more time to account for in a will. But as a rule of thumb, a basic will should cost around $300.
Your estate planning attorney may also recommend some additional documents including a living will which sets out your instructions for end-of-life care, and a power of attorney through which you grant someone the right to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. Some attorneys may include these documents in the price quote, but others may charge extra for these documents. It’s important to confirm this point when evaluating estate planning attorneys.
For some estates, a lawyer may recommend a will and a trust. The average cost of a will and trust can be significantly higher–typically more than $2,000. But where it makes sense to do so, a will and trust can provide significant benefits and protections to your estate.
When considering costs, keep in mind that a properly executed will can help to ensure that your estate is distributed with minimal cost. The probate process can be lengthy and expensive, and even more so if you don’t have a will in place. So balance the costs of making a will with an attorney against future headaches and cost for your heirs.
Similar considerations come into play when thinking about the cost to update your will.
Estate lawyers can charge varying fees for several reasons, but they all fall into three main categories: (1) location, (2) expertise, and (3) complexity of your estate.
Like most purchases, the cost of making a will with a lawyer can vary depending on where you live. Cost of living and what the market will bear all play into how much an estate attorney will charge for their services. For example, in North Carolina, an individual will may cost $300 but in New York City may go as high as $1,200. State laws also vary, and creating a will can be more complicated in certain states.
Attorneys who focus solely on estate planning often charge a higher price to prepare your will (though that’s not always the case). You are paying for specific expertise, so it’s not surprising that the cost may be a bit higher. It’s no different than what you would expect from a general practitioner doctor and a specialist doctor. When balancing cost, you always want to consider the level of expertise you want from your attorney.
This is where costs can really vary. A simple will lends itself to simple and low pricing. But the more complex your estate is, the more time and effort required from your attorney to ensure that your will clearly contains all of your wishes and is done in accordance with the relevant state laws. Here are a few reasons your will may be more complicated than a simple will:
There are many reasons that your estate plan may be more complicated than a simple will. It’s important to explain your circumstances to your attorney, and to know the questions to ask your estate planning lawyer to get a clear understanding of the estimated cost for their services.
So, what about the cost of making a will without a lawyer? If you do not want to have a lawyer draft your will, or the price is simply too high, there are other cheaper options available. This includes true do-it-yourself solutions and online will services.
Technically, you can make your own will, though we don’t recommend this. You can buy a template, for example, from Office Depot for $19 or find various free templates online. (You could even hand write a holographic will). But this path carries significant risk. There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan. Each state may have different rules, and personal circumstances can vary greatly.
By drafting and executing your own will, you run a significant risk that it is later deemed invalid if it does not comply with your state laws. And even if your will is valid, you may not have properly established how your estate should be distributed. So while do-it-yourself is a cheap option, it can result in major headaches for your loved ones after you pass away.
Prices among these providers can vary, with some as low as $69 for an individual will. Each of these providers tout that their will products are state-specific, and drafted by attorneys, so this option is certainly a step up from a completely do-it-yourself solution.
Using an online will service does raise some risk because they typically ask you to fill in a series of common questions, and they may not cover your specific personal needs. But if you are unable to afford an estate planning attorney we recommend options like Policygenius, Trust & Will, and Willing over drafting your own will.
The cheapest way to get a will is to do it yourself. You can buy state-specific templates online for as cheap as $19.
But doing your own will is very risky. There’s no guarantee that the template is accurate or actually tailored to your state’s requirements.
State requirements can change and you would need to do your own diligence to make sure the template is up to date. Not for the faint of heart.
The next cheapest way to make a will is to use an online service. The costs can range from $69 to $200, depending on the service.
We listed a few online will options above that you might find useful.
Making a will is a high impact decision, and you want to get it right. When considering your options, it’s helpful to balance convenience, price, risk, and comfort level.
For some folks, price is the determining factor and an online service might be the right way to go. For others, risk and comfort carries the day and an attorney is the better option.
And while many people focus on how much it costs to make a will with a lawyer, the reality is that the costs can be far greater if something goes wrong with your estate plan.
Whatever you decide, having a will in place is better than no will so we encourage you to do what works best for you.
Yes, you can legally make your own will. You do not need to have a lawyer draft your will.
But, to make a valid will you must meet all of the legal requirements of your state. If you fail to do so, a court may find your will partially or wholly invalid resulting in serious consequences to the distribution of your estate.
Writing a will on your own will is possible, but risky.
As mentioned, the average cost of a will and trust is going to be more than the cost of making a simple will, and typically costs more than $2,000 if working with an estate planning attorney.
But keep in mind that the average prices of a will and trust vary based on your location, the complexity of your estate, and of course whether or not you use do-it-yourself resources or hire a lawyer.
And while it costs more to make both a trust and a will, trusts can be valuable tools in building your estate plan and help your assets avoid the probate process.
We'll help you find the right attorney at the right price for you.