Understanding the Average Cost of a Will and Trust

Computer with calculator and other documents laying on table - cost of will concept

Having an estate plan in place ensures that your wishes are fulfilled both during your lifetime and after your death. The process can be complicated and more often than not, requires professional legal assistance. A Will or Living Trust is not a “one size fits all” product that can address every person’s circumstance and needs, so the cost of a will can vary. You should be cautious of free lunch seminars and on-line packages that push Wills and Living Trusts for a standardized cost without a free personal consultation to determine a person’s circumstances and needs.

Free Consultation With an Attorney

The first step for understanding the cost of a Will or Living Trust is to schedule a free consultation with an estate planning attorney to help you decide what estate plan is best for your own individual needs and goals. The consultation should involve a detailed discussion between you and the attorney about how you want your wishes followed during your life and after your death. All information obtained should be kept confidential and the attorney should determine if there is any conflict of interests if they are assisting a couple with their estate planning. Typically, prior to a consultation an estate planning attorney will provide a confidential estate planning questionnaire to fill out which will provide the attorney with a basic understanding of a person’s current circumstances.

Additional Documents That Should Be Included with a Flat Fee

After the initial consultation, an estate planning attorney should be able to provide a flat fee quote in writing for the cost of drafting a Will or Living Trust. However, there are important documents that should be included along with a Will or Living Trust. Those documents include a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters and a Patient Advocate Designation, sometimes referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. These documents are designed to address a person’s financial and health care needs in times of a medical crisis or a long-lasting illness. It is important that these documents be drafted with the individual’s specific circumstances and needs in mind because it is critical for a person to have effective documents that allow trusted persons to make decisions on their behalf, particularly if they are disabled or incapacitated.

Services That Should be Included with a Flat Fee

There should also be an understanding that the flat fee cost for a skillfully drafted Will, Living Trust and Durable Power of Attorney documents should include advice and assistance with beneficiary designations for a person’s financial accounts. Although a Will or Living trust is a central part of an estate plan, a significant portion of personal wealth for many people is contained in financial assets such as life insurance policies, annuities, and tax-favored accounts–like IRAs, 401(k)s and education accounts. These accounts have provisions known as beneficiary designations that enable a person to appoint who will receive the contents of their account after death. It should be noted that the beneficiary designation on financial accounts controls the distribution of assets and overrides the provisions of your Will or Trust.

The process of designating and confirming beneficiary designations is crucial in estate planning. Consequently, the cost for a Will and Trust should always include advice and assistance with reviewing and properly designating beneficiaries on financial accounts and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of beneficiary designations. For example, a disadvantage may involve listing a minor child as a beneficiary on a financial account. Financial institutions typically do not pay death benefits directly to minor children at the time of the account holder’s death because they do not have the legal capacity to accept payment. In such cases, a special bank account may be necessary to hold the assets or a conservatorship established by the probate court. Both processes can be expensive and time-consuming, with the assets eventually being released to the child upon reaching 18 years of age, even if the child is not financially responsible.

Additional estate planning services for a flat feed should also include providing information and advice about the use of an enhanced life estate deed, commonly referred to as a Lady Bird deed. This type of deed has become a popular estate planning tool for conveying a person’s home or other real property to a beneficiary while retaining control over the property during their lifetime. The use of a Lady Bird deed avoids the need for probate administration for the transfer of real property and is used frequently in Medicaid planning. However, a Lady Bird deed comes with limitations and is not suitable for all persons or families. Consequently, it is important to have an estate planning attorney with real estate experience provide you with a detailed explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of using a Lady Bird deed in your estate plan.

Key Takeaway: Schedule a Free Consultation with an Estate Planning Attorney

At Ager Law Office, Bill Ager helps individuals and families with all aspects of estate planning, including Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial Matters, Patient Advocate Designations and Lady Bird deeds. From his Ann Arbor office, Bill Ager serves clients throughout Washtenaw County. To schedule a free consultation for an understanding of the cost of an estate plan specifically tailored to your needs, or for updating your existing plan, call (734) 649-0784, send an email to bill@agerlawoffice.com, or use the online contact form on this website.

Categories: Estate Planning