How Much Is the Cost of a Will?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 19, 2015
BARRY HAIMO: A will is generally very affordable. There are many different types of wills. Sometimes a will is used in conjunction with a revocable or irrevocable trust, so it is a little bit shorter. Sometimes it’s a stand-alone document which has trusts built inside of it, which is a little bit longer. In either case, it’s generally very affordable, and the benefits of avoiding probate far outweigh the costs of executing a will.
Probate refers to the court process used to distribute the assets of a deceased person’s estate to their heirs. With smaller estates, sometimes probate isn’t necessary. Even in the case of larger estates, however, probate proceedings are generally much quicker if a will is present. If there is no will, your heirs will spend a great deal of time, money, and effort in probate courts attempting to divide up your estate.
Factors that Affect the Cost of a Will
Though wills are usually the most affordable option, your own bottom line will be different depending on your situation. The cost of executing a will depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of time and expertise your situation requires, the assets you are leaving behind, and the total value of the assets.
Here are some of the factors that will influence the final cost of executing a will.
Your Personal Situation – Many different people from all walks of life plan their estate through a will. The cost of executing the will can depend on the complexity of your situation.
Wills dealing with smaller estates usually require less time and expertise to draft. For example, if you wanted to write a will leaving a small amount of property and funds to a spouse, it would not require a significant amount of your estate planning attorney’s time to craft an effective will for you.
However, you might expect to pay more if you are leaving a large estate with many different types of property or if your will must navigate complex family situations. For example, leaving several million dollars of assets to children from different marriages would be a more complex affair, and thus may cost significantly more.
The Value of Your Estate – The cost of the will doesn’t necessarily increase with the value of your assets. But larger estates are subject to the Federal Estate Tax. Thus, larger estates require extra tax planning. There is also a greater liability while planning a larger estate, so your attorney will require additional time to ensure your assets are not left in a vulnerable position.
The Nature of Your Assets – Certain estate assets are easier to manage than others. Typical assets, such as homes and bank accounts, require less time to manage. If your estate has many atypical assets—for example, out-of-state real estate, private businesses, or benefits from another person’s trust—this will require more of your attorney’s professional time.
The Complexity and Detail of Your Bequests – The more detailed the terms of your will, the more time it will take to draw it up. If you wish to have a detailed inventory of every item you own and which beneficiaries will receive them (e.g. I want to leave my encyclopedias to Jeff, my blue shirt to Michael, my red tea kettle to Susan.), that will take longer to outline in your will. In addition, complexity in family dynamics further complicate matters. Blended families require special attention, as to beneficiaries with special needs.
There are a number of other factors that will affect the final cost of drafting a will, but you should not let these minor costs dissuade you from estate planning—the long term cost may be much greater for your heirs if you do not leave a will.
To learn more about the specific expenses for your personal situation, consult with an expert estate attorney.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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