It seems like such a simple question, asking how much a will costs, but the truth is, the subject is anything but simple.
When someone asks me the question, my answer sounds like the familiar lawyer-speak answer: it depends. But what I should say, and what I want to share here, is that the answer is so because rarely is a will “simple.” More particularly, I don’t consider my work to be about documents but about people. And I think we can all agree that people are anything but simple.
Okay, so yes, I can provide an answer: my estate planning services, including drafting a will, can run from $500 to over $4,000. Of course, that hardly answers that individual’s question of, “How much?” Such a range is not what someone wants to hear in asking that question. So I revert back to the better answer, the one that I hope can lead to the opening dialogue with a client or friend to educate about the layers involved in estate planning and your will: it depends. And that conversation, hopefully, begins. As the potential issues the answer depends on are listed, people often begin to realize that this is not about a form or about a document. It is about that client. And each client is different.
Each client has her own set of goals for her will, his own family situation, her own wishes for providing for others or for charities, his own properties owned or not, and so on. Some clients have young children. Some have second marriages and blended families. Some want to provide for an existing spouse while saving some of those marital assets for their children while protecting it from subsequent marriages for the surviving spouse. Some want to provide for charities. Some have loved ones with special needs. Some have retirement accounts needing maximized tax savings to be considered. Some have guardianship or care considerations for elderly parents. Some want to protect their children’s inheritance from potential creditors. Some have family members facing addiction whom they want to help, but not give an influx of cash to. And all want to make the process less difficult for loved ones when that time comes.
Within those—and so many more—questions and issues exist the areas that build an individualized estate plan. Such a plan is not about completing a form or filling in blanks. Sure, I utilize top-rated drafting software to facilitate my process. But my professional role comes in our conversations—that time spent getting to know a client and his situation. It is through that relationship we are able to work together to find out the client’s goals and work to meet them. It is through that understanding that I can provide the best counsel to help a client.
So, how much for a simple will? It depends. Until I know what you want your will to say, what you want the outcome to be, what is important to you, and what your individual situation looks like, I cannot answer that question. But I can tell you that sorting through the layered issues is complex and involved.
A focused estate planning attorney knows those complexities and appreciates the value that a quality estate plan adds to your peace of mind. More importantly, that attorney will invest her time in your relationship and in understanding your goals. After all, the end product you sign may be merely a document—the will. But the service is that professional relationship, one that is cultivated with time and personal attention that results in a plan based on your individual needs and situation.
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