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CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Taxes & Financial Planning > Estate Planning

Estate Planning Cost

How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

average costMedium: Attorney Starts Around $800-$1,800high costHigh: Can Run $2,000-$3,500 Or More
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Estate planning is the process of looking at all you have and deciding what you want to do with it during your working and retirement years, as well as how you want it distributed after you die in order to minimize taxes and other fees paid by your survivors.

Typical costs:

  • Having a lawyer evaluate your financial and family circumstances and prepare appropriate legal documents starts around $800-$1,800 and can run $2,000-$3,500 or more, depending on complexity, location and other circumstances.
  • Books covering the basics of estate planning[1] run $10-$100. Do-it-yourself estate planning kits[2] run $10-$60 and estate planning computer software[3] is $20-$250. Be sure the information provided includes up-to-date details specific to your state of residence; many estate planning experts recommend against using one-size-fits-all documents unless they're reviewed by an attorney.
Related articles: Will, Trust, Probate, Financial Planner, Tax Returns

What should be included:
  • The four basic estate planning tools are a will, durable power of attorney, a living will and a medical durable power of attorney (health care proxy), according to the Financial Planning Association. Other tools that might be used in planning your estate include trusts, how assets are owned, insurance and gifting. Your attorney will review your current situation and your long-term goals and needs, to help you create a plan using these tool. The goal is to maximize your financial security during your working and retirement years while setting things up so that when you die your money, property and other items will be distributed according to your wishes, and with a minimum amount of taxes and probate costs.
  • provides an overview of the information needed to do estate planning as well as a more detailed estate planning checklist[4] that you can fill out.
  • The planning process should include time for you to consider and reflect on any decisions you need to make. The State Bar of California warns against "promoters" of financial and estate planning services who pressure you into buying specific financial products or one-size-fits-all living trust kits.
  • Although people prefer not to think so far ahead as their death, estate planning is a good idea for almost everyone. Nolo Press provides a look at estate planning based on age and family situation. The University of Florida recommends writing a letter of last instructions[5] so your family and friends will know your wishes and what arrangements you've already made.
Additional costs:
  • If you own a small business or extensive property, you might want to consult with your accountant or other financial professionals as part of the estate planning process. There could be additional charges for these services.
  • Attorneys working on an hourly basis charge for any time spent answering your questions on the phone or by e-mail, as well as case-related expenses such as interviews, research or photocopies. Charges are usually done in quarters or tenths of an hour; a six-minute phone conversation may be billed as 15 minutes.
Shopping for estate planning:
  • provides a detailed questionnaire to complete when preparing to meet with an estate planning lawyer[6] . Ask about the attorney's experience and specific training in estate planning law.
  • Referrals to lawyers are available through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel[7] and the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys[8] .
  • Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand what is covered, and any other fees and expenses you might have to pay.
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