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Estate Planning

How Much Does a Lawyer Charge To Make a Will?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Drawing up a will with a lawyer can cost between a few hundred to several thousand dollars. But you have options to keep costs to a minimum: from composing a will online to using unbundled legal services.

Writing a will may not be the most cheerful thing you will do in your life. However, having a will can keep your loved ones safe and secure their emotional and financial wellbeing. 

We can connect you today with a local unbundled attorney to discuss your will.

Why Should I Make a Will?

A will is a legal document that states what happens to your assets after you die. There are several reasons why it’s important to have a will:

  • The most obvious reason is that you get to decide what happens to what you own and who benefits from your estate. It’s an efficient way to provide a safety net for your loved ones and make sure that your hard-earned property doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • A will lets your loved ones save time and money. Most estates (especially large ones) will have to go through probate court, which will decide the distribution of assets. Not having a will makes all related proceedings much more complicated and costly. As a result, your loved ones will incur additional expenses and have to go through a lengthy legal process.
  • A will helps avoid family disputes. If you are aware of some complications in your family dynamics, it may be best to avoid ambiguity and clearly lay out all property relations in your will.
  • You can donate money to charity. A will helps you create a legacy and have your assets go towards a cause you believe in. To make this happen, you will simply need to mention your chosen charity as one of the beneficiaries of your will. 
  • A will lets you transfer specific assets to specific people. If you want to leave a gift, an heirloom, or any other special item to one of your beneficiaries, you can do so by simply mentioning this in your will.
  • A will is not only about money and assets. If you are a parent, you can use your will to nominate a guardian for your children. If you have pets, you can include a clause in your will that will make sure that they are taken care of.
  • You can also customize your will with personal messages to the beneficiaries. While this isn’t part of most standard wills, it can be arranged. 

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?

Not having a will means your case will need to go through probate court and follow the local rules of intestate succession. In most cases, the order of succession will be as follows: surviving spouse or partner, children, parents, siblings, and then extended family members.

Preparing a will gives you more control over who will inherit what after your death. You can include a full list of your assets and name a beneficiary for each of them. Anything that is not part of this list will be considered residuary estate—but you will also have control over what happens to it. You can divide your residuary estate among several beneficiaries and define the percentage of the estate each of them receives. 

Not having a will also deprives you of having a say in what happens to your children (if you have them). In most cases, the custody of your children will go to the surviving parent. However, if there is no surviving parent, or if they are deemed incapable of taking care of children, the judge will need to appoint a guardian. When preparing your will, you can appoint a legal guardian for your child or children. If there is no will, a guardian may be chosen among your family members. If, for some reason, this is not an option, your child/children may have to enter the foster care system.

As you can see from the examples above, having a will gives you more control over various aspects of your life: from family life to personal assets. It can also simplify the legal proceedings for your loved ones, minimizing related stress and expenses.

How Much Will a Lawyer Charge To Write My Will?

Many factors affect the cost of lawyer fees for drawing up a will: from the state where you are located to the complexity of your case. There are also different payment options to consider: you may choose to pay per hour or opt for a flat fee for the whole process. 

On average, to draw up a simple will, you should expect a flat fee ranging from $300 to $500. More complicated cases can cost upwards of $1000. Hourly rates also vary Generally, attorneys will charge from $200 to $400 per hour for a standard case.

How To Minimize the Costs of Making a Will?

If you want to lower attorney costs when making a will—or avoid them altogether— you have several options.

First, you can try using a holographic will—a will that you handwrite/type and sign yourself without the assistance of a lawyer. The cost of such a procedure, as you may have guessed, is free.

However, this presents several complications. The biggest is that not every state recognizes a holographic will as a valid legal document. If you reside in a state that doesn’t, your will may have little impact, and your assets will be distributed according to the existing state laws. Another problem is that due to the lack of proper experience and knowledge, you may leave some key information out of your “handmade” will, which will make it incomplete or invalid.

A holographic will may be a suitable solution if you have minimal assets or no dependents. Even in this case, however, you may want to do some research on how to compose a will and confirm it fits in with your state laws.

You can use specialized software or templates. Yes, there is even an app for that. You will find plenty of will templates online—some of them are free and some require a small fee—typically, under $30. If you want to purchase will-making software, you will pay more, around $50. This option is more expensive, since it includes a template, as well as instructions on how to fill in the form and what the legal terms mean.

Compared to the holographic will, both templates and software offer more guidance and minimize the chance of mistakes.

The downside is that templates and software offer a generalized approach to composing a will and leave little space for customization. This is why this method is best suited for standard and simple wills.

Yet another option is to use an online will service. An online will is a legal document, the same as a standard will. Plus, most online will services also provide some form of legal guidance. The cost of online will services varies and can start at just over $30 and go well over $100. It’s important to make sure your online will complies with the laws of the state that you reside in.

How To Save Money Using Unbundled Legal Services?

If you are not ready to give up on legal help but are interested in minimizing legal costs, there is a third option. You can use unbundled legal services and hire a lawyer for a specific part of the will-making process. For example, you may do research and draft the will yourself but have an attorney look it over when it’s ready. In this case, you won’t have to pay the full will-drafting fee but just a portion of it.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take on the drafting of the will and would like to hire an attorney for the full scope of related services, you may still find our network of attorneys to be more affordable. We cooperate with smaller private firms and solo practitioners—as a result, your legal fees may be lower, but the quality of legal services won’t be compromised. We can connect you today with a local estate attorney to discover your options.

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