How Does An Attorney Charge For Estate Planning?

How Does An Attorney Charge For Estate Planning?

End-of-life planning isn’t easy, but it is critical. You may find it difficult to confront your mortality, but proper estate planning can safeguard your family assets and help your heirs mitigate some or all of the estate taxes. Dying without an appropriate estate plan or a will can leave your family members in the lurch bringing further grief to them. We tend to think that estate planning is for the ultra-rich but it’s not. Regardless of the financial status or family dynamics, having an estate plan is essential.

The first critical step to prepare an estate plan is finding a qualified and seasoned estate planning attorney or lawyer who can help educate you and walk you through the complex process of developing and maintaining an estate plan. Keep in mind that the estate planning process involves a lot of discussion around family, finances, relationships and mortality hence it is absolutely necessary that you develop a rapport with your attorney and feel comfortable disclosing these details. Before recommending and developing an action plan your attorney will take into consideration some of the factors such as:

  • Your geographical location
  • Current financial circumstances including your debts, mortgages etc.
  • Tangible assets – real estate, bank accounts, investments, artwork or collectibles, etc.
  • Intangible assets – Email accounts, online investment accounts, copyrights, patents, etc.
  • Number of beneficiaries including minor children

Remember estate planning isn’t just about signing some legal documents, it is a true gift to your loved ones. It should be a well-designed plan that will ensure that your family is safe and can lead a happy life even after your death.

Here are some common methods used by attorneys to charge for Estate Planning:

  • Free Consultation
  • Flat Fee
  • Standard Hourly Rates

Estate plans aren’t cheap. There is a cost involved to get your plan in place however, how much you’ll spend will depend on a multitude of factors such as the experience of your attorney, your current location and its state laws, the complexity of your financial situation, etc. Your attorney may charge anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars for a will and to prepare all the necessary estate documents.

1) Free Consultation

Many estate planning attorneys do not charge any fee for the initial meeting. The attorneys may use this meeting to educate clients about the fundamentals of estate planning and also understand and assess their client’s need for an estate plan, their family dynamics, and financial circumstances, etc. Your attorney may also provide a few recommendations based on your discussions; however, if you want to move forward with the process, he will charge the fee accordingly.

2) Flat Fee

Some attorneys charge a flat fee to create an estate plan as it requires handling legal matters and a thorough understanding of specific state federal laws. After assessing your situation, your attorney will provide you a total dollar amount that covers all the services including initial meeting, preparation of necessary documents, making contracts or your will, reviewing documents and signing of the papers.

Some attorneys may also charge a separate funding fee in case you require any assistance with funding your trust or some may even include this amount as part of the flat fee. Many people prefer a flat fee model as it provides certainty with the entire estate planning process. While most attorneys prefer working on a flat fee model as it is hassle-free, few attorneys also offer their services on an hourly rate.

3) Standard Hourly Rates

Some attorneys charge an hourly rate to provide estate planning services. Remember that attorneys with many years of experience usually charge a higher hourly rate. If you plan to hire an attorney on an hourly rate, then you must be careful to check upfront on the number of hours the attorney expects to spend on your estate plan since this model can be uncertain and you might end up paying a huge cost.

Since time is money for both parties, choose to spend time wisely with your attorney. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions to get clarity on the estate plan process or else your attorney may recommend a flawed estate plan. Also, once the process is discussed, ensure that your attorney is proactively taking care of the required paperwork such as design and draft of your initial plan, review the plan based on your meetings, help you fund your trust (if needed) and finally sign the plan.

The cost of estate planning can be intimidating but don’t let it deter you from having an estate plan. Though you can get your estate plan in place any time before your death, it is always a great idea to plan as early as possible to avoid the unexpected and secure the future of your loved ones and your assets.