How much should basic estate planning documents cost to prepare?

How much should basic estate planning documents cost to prepare?
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We will need a will, a trust, a PA and a healthcare PA. We have moderate income and assets.


Congrats on taking care of something that many people put off indefinitely.

A basic estate plan usually consists of wills,  (one for each spouse),  powers of attorney  (one for each), medical powers of attorney  (one for each) and medical directives  (one for each).  Some basic estate plans may include a community property or separate property agreement as well. The price range for a basic estate plan is wide;  I have seen attorneys charge anywhere between $800 to $4,000. 

I recommend that before you meet, ask the attorney what the cost will be.  This lets the attorney know that you are fee-sensitive,  and he/she will be more likely to be reasonable on price.  In my humble opinion,  a reasonable fee for a basic estate plan is in the range of $1,000 to $1,500.

A trust is a substitute for a will, and is not usually considered part of a basic estate plan.  Trusts can be living or testamentary,  revocable or irrevocable.  Some trusts are quite simple,  while others can be very complex.  The price range for drafting a trust varies widely;  some can be many thousands of dollars.

The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust.  These trusts can have many uses, but the most common is probate avoidance.  Assets that are titled in the trust do not pass by will, and are not part of the probate estate.  This can save the time and cost of probate.  Before springing for a revocable living trust,  consider that many assets can be titled to avoid probate.  For example,  a non qualified bank or brokerage account can be titled "TOD"  (transfer on death) with beneficiaries listed.  In effect,  this puts the account into a simple trust, and there is no cost for this.  In 23 states a real estate asset such as your home can be also be titled TOD  (also known as a "beneficiary deed").  Most states have a standard form that can be completed and filed to retitle the asset.  Finally, all retirement plans including 401k, pension, IRA, Roth IRA and others,  plus insurance plans such as permanent or term life, fixed or variable annuities etc.  have beneficiary designations,  and already pass without probate.

All basic estate plan documents and trusts can be drafted online as well,  through sites like willmaker and legalzoom.  The cost for a basic estate plan through one of these sites is a few hundred dollars, and a revocable living trust is a few hundred dollars as well.  Although this is a far less expensive route, I find the quality to reflect that lower cost.  I might consider drafting the basic estate plan on such a site,  but I would avoid using them for more complex documents such as trusts.

Hope this helps!


The cost for the preparation and filing of the documents you asked about will vary depending on where you live. Documents will cost more in large, urban areas than in other locations around the country. An attorney in the metropolitan Boston I refer clients to drafted the same documents for me you are asking about. My discounted price was $2000.00 I would expect to pay less than that if the work was being done for us in the western part of Massachusetts.

Before engaging an attorney to draft these documents, be sure you are working with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and estate law. By that I mean, find someone whose practice is dedicated to estate work, not someone who will draft estate papers for you and take the next case to represent someone charged with drunk driving. Estate matters are a specialized subset of the legal profession. One way to narrow down your list of candidates for interviews is to contact your state bar association and ask what listings they have near you who specialize in estate matters.

In addition to asking about the fees for your instruments when you first meet with an attorney, ask him/her about what professional societies they belong to and if they've held any offices in those societies or what professional meetings they have presented work to. This should give you an indication of their professional experience and competence. I would also ask to see copies of the prospective attorney's client communications. Estate law is not cast in concrete. Tax law changes for example can have an effect on the validity of your documents as time passes. How does your counselor make his/her clients aware of law changes that may impact an existing set of documents. If your lawyer does not communicate with existing clients about such changes, how will you know if your papers are kept up to date?

Congratulations on looking at these matters now. Most folks don't bother and would be shocked to find how their estate is handled if they die en testate (no documents).


I'm in California and here the fees are about the same. A full estate plan including a living trust would cost $1500-$2500. Pay any less than that and I begin to question the quality of the law the lawyer will produce for you - and the living trust is just that: custom crafted law to replace the default laws of the state for transferring assets upon your death.

Other answers here are very clear and detailed so won't repeat.

I will add that the will, powers of attorney and health care directives are all essential for most everybody. They often can be produced for next to nothing and require little effort no billable effort on the part of a lawyer - although it is worth it to run your estate plan by a lawyer to be sure it can be executed properly. That might cost you a few hundred bucks - money well spent. If you have kids, the guardianship papers are essential and again worth a legal review to be sure they're drawn up correctly.

As to the living trust, some people need one, others don't. If you are married with kids, the living trust will probably prove helpful. If you own assets and property worth more than $100,000 (regardless of what you might owe on it), the living trust will save your heirs many times the cost of creating that trust in the form of probate fees plus it will save them months of hassle and waiting (the probate process is long and drawn out) and the public visibility of the process (who gets something from the estate is a matter of public record).


The price is not a set amount. Different attorneys value their time in different ways. In general, what you are asking for could be between $1000 and $2500. But if you shop around you might be able to get it for less. You might also try to look on the internet. There are websites the will help you do this without an attorney.


For very basic paperwork, check out the Nolo website. I have seen clients successfully get what they need done using the resources there, at the very minimum as a way to begin the process and to get something in place. As your situation becomes more complicated, you can look around for an estate planning attorney and interview several, asking about cost and other issues that are of concern.

You will need a healthcare POA (Advance Directive) for every state in which you spend time (since you could have an emergency while on a trip, for example). I often recommend CaringInfo as it has a list of Advance Directives by state that come with instructions and templates that you can use.

For setting up a trust, you will need to consult with an estate planning attorney. However, trusts come in many varieties. Have you had a discussion with your CFP and/or CPA to find out what kind of trust you need and if it is truly necessary to accomplish your goals? I ask because I hear the word "trust" thrown around often before the issues are examined to find out if it is the best solution. Trusts can be expensive to set up and to maintain, as you will have to have tax returns prepared each year and their will most likely be other associated costs.

Good luck and I hope this helps!


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