How Much Will a Lawyer Charge to Write Your Will?

A will can protect even a complicated estate.

A will is a critical legal document to have to ensure the people you choose get your inheritance instead of leaving it up to the state. Creating a will is often part of the estate planning packages provided by estate attorneys and is important even if you set up a trust. If you’re thinking about creating a will, you may wonder how much a lawyer will charge to write your will as part of your estate plan.

Who Needs a Will?

Before considering the cost of writing a will, you must realize the importance of having one. Everyone needs a will if they have any property or dependents. It’s a common myth that the only people who benefit from a will are the wealthy. No matter how few possessions you own or how much value they possess, having a will is beneficial. For more complicated estates, they are essential.

A will makes it easier for your beneficiaries to inherit and is legally binding. Otherwise, the state laws will dictate who gets your estate. A will also determines who will care for your minor beneficiaries after your death.

If you have been hesitating on having a will drawn up, you should commit to it to protect your estate and to make things easier for your loved ones in the future.

How a Lawyer Will Determine the Cost of Writing a Will

Consider legal fees when choosing an attorney for your will.

Estate planning attorneys charge for writing a will in different ways. You will want to ask at your free consultation to know what to expect.

Flat Fees

Lawyers typically charge a flat fee as the cost of writing a will. This fee will vary based on how complicated the will is and the attorney’s rates. A higher flat fee will be reserved for complicated wills or for a larger estate. On the low end, you can expect around $300 for a simple will. On the high end, it could be more than $1000.

A flat fee is beneficial for several reasons. First, it lets everyone know what to expect for cost. The attorney can work at whatever pace they chose, using legal forms they already have created, and not have to worry about counting every minute as they provide legal advice. As the client, you don’t have to hesitate to call with a question.

Hourly Rates

Some lawyers choose to bill by the hour instead of using a flat fee. The rate will reflect the attorney’s experience and where you live. You’ll likely pay a higher hourly rate in a large metropolitan area than in a small town.

The rate will also depend on who is doing the work. If a paralegal drafts the will, you can expect a lower rate than if the lead attorney writes it up. The time is generally billed in increments, which means that a lawyer who has ten-minute increments will bill for ten minutes even if they are on the phone with you for five.

Other Costs for a Law Firm

The fees mentioned above are for just a will beign created. Along with writing the will, the attorney also files it with the county clerk where you live. You may wonder, “How much does it cost to file a will?” Filing fees are usually separate from the lawyer’s charges. They can range from around $50 to over $1000.

The cost of writing the will is separate from the probate process. If you need an attorney to guide you through the probate process, the charges will be extra. Filing for probate costs a specific fee that can be less than a few hundred dollars. However, the total probate cost can be much higher, especially if anyone contests the will. A probate lawyer can help you get through the process much faster, especially with complicated estates.

Do You Need More Than a Will?

A will is only a part of estate planning. It details who you want to receive your estate and take care of your minor children. You may want to consider other documents that protect you while you’re living but unable to take care of your own affairs.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a document that names someone to act on your behalf for financial issues. They can pay creditors and make other financial decisions when you aren’t able to.

Advance Directive

Another document used in estate planning is an advance directive, which includes a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. Some states require these two documents to be separate while other states will allow them to be combined.

Medical Power of Attorney

The power of attorney gives someone the right to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. This could happen in an accident or while you are in surgery or unconscious. It could be more long-term, such as if you were to develop dementia and be unable to make decisions for yourself.

Living Will

A living will determines what happens to you if you are seriously or terminally ill. It may stipulate whether extreme measures are allowed to keep you alive and what are the limits. For instance, some people will allow a feeding tube but not life support.

Living Trust

An estate planning attorney can help you prepare for the future by creating these documents. They may also recommend a living trust for your estate. This allows you to put all your assets into a trust with a beneficiary named who will become the heir after your death. Living trusts prevent the need for your estate to go through probate court, which can alleviate a lot of the problems for your family members by avoiding probate.

You will need to update your trust with other assets as they are added to your estate.

If you add all this work to your estate plan, you can expect the probate lawyer to charge more. You’ll want to find out if they do the work of funding the trust or if that is a separate charge.

Funding the trust means transferring title from your name to the name of the trust. This is a critical step that must not be overlooked. Any asset not included in the trust may have to go through probate.

Can You Write Your Own Will?

Even simple wills may benefit from an attorney's help.

You’ve probably seen movies or TV shows where someone leaves a handwritten letter as their will. They may start it with the words, “This is my last will and testament,” before listing who inherits their estate.

You may have heard of video wills where someone records a video of them where they tell someone that it is their last will and testament and discusses who inherits the assets of their estate.

You may also have seen plenty of places where you can make your own online wills or even set up a trust on your own. However, it’s not usually the best idea to take this route. For one thing, a trust is a complicated and living thing that benefits from having a professional set it up.

Another issue is that if your personal representative or other loved ones don’t know where your private will is located, they may not find it after your death. In this situation, the court will proceed as if there were no will for the deceased person.

Hiring a licensed attorney to write your will protects you and your loved ones. The fee they charge is worth having an experienced attorney create documents that will stand up in court and ensure your wishes are honored after your death.