Over half of Americans don’t have a will.
If you’re healthy, it might not seem like you need one any time soon, but disaster tends to strike when you least expect it. The problem with writing a will is that it takes money.
Are you asking yourself, “How much does it cost to create a will?” The answer is probably not as much as you think. We’ve put together this guide to walk you through the average prices and help you pick the best method for your needs.
So let’s get started!
Do You Really Need a Will?
You don’t have to create a will before you pass away. However, if you don’t have one, things will get much more complicated (and expensive) for the people you leave behind.
If you don’t have a will, your assets and estate will have to go through the probate process.
This means the state will appoint a personal representative to handle your estate—a job that usually falls to the surviving spouse. If you don’t have a spouse or they don’t want to take on this responsibility, another family member can take it instead.
But picking a personal representative isn’t always this simple.
Things get more complicated if you’ve been married multiple times or have grown children. Your family members might also decide that no one wants to take on the job, which means the state will appoint a public trustee. This person will distribute your assets based on the law, which usually means your beneficiaries won’t get the things that are important to them.
Before you can even get to this step, though, the state has to get around to actually assigning someone to do the job. That can take some time. While your family waits for them to make a decision, all your assets will be frozen.
Learning how to write a will saves your loved ones a lot of stress and hassle later.
How Much Does It Cost to Create a Will?
The answer to this question isn’t so simple. The amount of money you spend creating a will depends on a variety of factors, including how you choose to do it. You could end up paying anything between $25 to $1,000.
Why is there such a wide gap?
It all comes down to whether you decide to hire a lawyer or write your will yourself. There are pros and cons to both options, so here’s a closer look at each choice and a more specific cost estimation.
Hiring a Lawyer
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a lawyer is that they know what they’re doing. They’ve spent years studying and working with the specific regulations in your area, so you know any document they help you write will be accurate and valid.
That said, lawyers are the most expensive way to create a will. It’s still difficult to put an exact price tag on the service, but the average dollar amount is about $300. However, the following considerations can make that number fluctuate on either end.
Lawyers who have been practicing for several years will charge more for their experience. If they’re just starting out, you can find more affordable rates.
But that doesn’t mean you should go with the cheapest option.
You get what you pay for, after all. Hiring a lawyer who doesn’t have a lot of experience may leave you with a will that’s full of mistakes. Make sure you do your research to ensure a lawyer that fits your budget is also reputable.
The average cost of hiring a lawyer changes based on where you live. For example, it’s more expensive to hire a lawyer in Las Angeles than it is to hire one in a small town.
Size and Value of Your Estate
If you have a large or valuable estate, it will take longer to go through your assets and write out a will. This means you’ll have to hand over more money to finish the job.
Area of Practice
Lawyers who specialize in estate planning tend to charge more for their will writing services than other law firms. This extra cost means you’re getting the best possible help, but it can also go over your budget.
Type of Estate Documents You Need
Do you want more than just a will? There are several types of estate planning documents, you can discover more here, and the more you need, the more money you’ll have to spend.
You can buy will templates and software from many different websites online. They only cost a small fee, about $25 to $50. Then you can download them and fill in the blanks yourself.
Most of these templates come with instructions, so even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can figure out what information to put where.
Which Method of Writing a Will Is the Better Choice?
A DIY will is much cheaper, so that makes it the better choice, right?
DIY wills can be helpful in a pinch, but they tend to be generic. Most people need a bit more personalization to get their will to match their needs. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble writing down your wishes correctly.
It’s also easy to make mistakes if you’re doing it on your own. If this happens, your will might not be valid in the eyes of the state, so your estate will have to go through the probate process anyway.
In most cases, it’s better to spend the extra money on a lawyer to ensure your will has everything you need and is valid. This way you can ensure everyone follows what you declare in the document after you’re gone.
Always Stay Prepared
It’s never too early to write a will. Now that you’ve answered the question, “How much does it cost to create a will?”, you should look into hiring a lawyer right away. You never know when you’ll leave, and it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
Want to learn some other helpful estate planning tips? Make sure you take a look at the rest of our blog!