We’re so glad you decided to get a will! A will is one of the most important parts of your legacy, because it lets you give your loved ones good gifts and protect your family after you’re gone.
We know you want to do your will right, so it’s legally binding and no one can contest it. But we also know you’re asking the big question: How much does a will cost?
Because, let’s be real, the only way to make a will for free is to write it yourself, and there could be a whole lot of problems if you do that (more on that in a minute). So it’s smart to get some help making your will.
The cost of a will varies from free to thousands of dollars, so let’s go over your options together. We’ll talk about the different will-making options that are out there—plus their price ranges—so you can find the one that works for you, your family and your budget.
How much does it cost to have a lawyer draw up a will?
You’ve probably heard that if you want an ironclad will, you need to hire an attorney. That’s the traditional way to make a will. And it’s a classic for a reason. Attorneys know all about their state’s estate laws, so they can give you expert advice for your area.
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The downside is, hiring an attorney is the most expensive way to make a will. Paying for the attorney’s time and expertise can really add up. But exactly how much will it cost?
The short and not-super-helpful answer is, It depends.
Hey, we told you it wasn’t super helpful! But here’s something that will help:
We’re going to look at the four factors that determine how much attorneys charge for a will, plus the average cost of a will based on those factors.
1. Where You Live
Some places have higher costs of living than others, so professionals have to charge more for their services. You’re going to pay a lot more for an attorney in L.A. than you would for an attorney in Little Rock.
2. The Attorney’s Experience Level
Remember when we said you’re paying an attorney for their expertise? A seasoned attorney who’s been practicing law for 30 years will charge way more than a new attorney who just passed the bar. You can save some money by hiring a newer attorney. But the tradeoff is that they won’t have as much experience—which could be an issue if you have a lot of money or property to divide up in your will.
3. The Value of Your Estate
In fact, having a big estate can change the price of your will. The more valuable stuff you own or the more money you have, the more your will is going to cost. That’s because the attorney will have to spend more time and effort making sure the will covers all your assets. But if you have a simple estate that’s worth under $1 million, you’ll typically pay less for a will.
4. The Attorney’s Pricing Method
Attorneys charge different types of fees based on what service they’re providing. When it comes to making wills, they’re most likely to charge either a flat fee or an hourly fee.
Flat fees are helpful because you know the cost of your will up front. When you pay hourly, there’s more uncertainty. Hourly fees could be cheaper if your will is simple and you stay on topic when you meet with the attorney.
But if you waste time talking about things that have nothing to do with your will, or if your will becomes more complicated than you expected, that hourly fee can really add up. So it’s your job to save money by being prepared and staying focused.
The Average Cost of a Will Drawn Up by a Lawyer
Thanks to these four factors, there’s a huge price range for attorney-made wills. But on average, a flat fee for a simple will is about $300. You’ll pay a higher flat fee if you have a larger, more complicated estate. In that case, your fee could be $1,000 or more.
The cost of a will varies more with hourly fees. The average hourly rate for an attorney is $200 to $350 per hour, depending on where you live and the attorney’s experience.
Let’s say you need a simple will. Paying an experienced, big-city attorney by the hour will run you about $300 to $400. A newer attorney or one who works in a rural area will have a lower hourly rate—maybe even below average. So you’re looking more in the ballpark of $150 to $250. Those are big savings!
That said, those savings aren’t guaranteed. An inexperienced attorney may take longer to draft the will, which increases costs. And if you hire an attorney who works farther away, you have to factor into your expenses how much time you’ll spend driving to their office and taking off work to meet them.
If your will takes longer to make—or your estate is so massive that you need a living trust—then you’re going to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. Again, the price varies based on the factors we just talked about.
So be sure to shop around. Most attorneys offer a free consultation, which is a great time to interview them and make sure they’re the right fit. Ask at least three attorneys about their experience with wills like yours, and get estimates to see who offers the best value.
Are There Any Inexpensive Will Options?
Yes! There are several cost-effective ways to make a legally binding will without paying all those expensive attorney fees.
A will that you handwrite or type up yourself is called a holographic will. And it’s a really affordable option because it’s free. Yep—free! You just write down your wishes and sign them.
But there are some major cons to holographic wills.
Not all states consider these wills legitimate. So if your state doesn’t accept your homemade will, the courts will distribute your stuff based on state laws—not your wishes. Plus, state laws are constantly changing. Even if your will follows the rules now, it could become void if the laws change or you move out-of-state.
Another problem is that you’re not an estate planning expert (sorry, but if you’re reading this, it’s probably true). You could easily make a mistake or leave something important out of your will without realizing you’ve done anything wrong. You’d be leaving your stuff—or worse, your loved ones—unprotected. And the more assets you have, the more likely you are to make a serious mistake.
So if you have a very simple situation—like you’re a single minimalist with no dependents—a holographic will might work for you. Maybe. If you check your state’s laws, learn how to make a will and cross your fingers.
But if you’re married, have kids, own any major assets or just don’t like taking risks, you need to think long and hard about how well you want to protect your stuff and family. Then, consider these other will-making options.
Will Templates and Software
Another affordable way to make your own will is to buy or download a template. Templates are handy because you can just fill in the blanks to complete your will.
Some of them are free, but higher quality options cost $8 to $25 (plus tax and shipping) on websites like Amazon. Software costs more—about $50—and you can find it online or at brick-and-mortar stores like Office Depot. Software is more expensive because it gives you the template plus instructions on how to fill out the form correctly and what all the fancy legal terms mean.
The good thing about templates and software is that they give you some guidance—so you’re less likely to make mistakes than if you write a holographic will.
On the other hand, most templates and software are generic. Since they’re not tailored to your state’s laws, your loved ones could find themselves fighting each other in probate court over a will that doesn’t cover everything it should.
And since most templates are designed to make simple wills, you might run into a situation the template doesn’t cover if you have a larger estate.
Online wills offer the best of both worlds. They give you affordable legal forms that you can fill out from the comfort of your couch. And those forms were built by actual attorneys. They’re even designed to be specific to your state, so you can rest assured that your will obeys the laws in your area.
Most online wills cost anywhere from $90 to $150. And at that price, most online wills include financial and health power of attorney forms, as well as a living will or advanced health care directive. You can even add a mirror will for your spouse and spend under $200 total. So online wills are a great option to get all your legal forms in one place.
As with other DIY options, online wills may not cover all the bases for a large estate. We still recommend working with an attorney if your total net worth is $1 million or more. (You can figure out your net worth using investment expert Chris Hogan’s net worth calculator.)
If you’re not an Everyday Millionaire just yet, then an online will is the best way to get an attorney-made will—without the hefty price.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start protecting your family and getting the peace of mind that comes from having a plan. Create your online will today.