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Estate Planning

How Much Does It Cost To Set Up a Will?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Making a will can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You can also opt for writing a will yourself without hiring a lawyer. Or you can work with a lawyer for just some stages of the will writing process and save a lot of money in legal costs. 

We can connect you today with an unbundled estate attorney in your area.

Writing a will is not the most pleasant task in the world, but it’s necessary if you want to provide a safety net for your loved ones. Having a will can help your family avoid unnecessary legal proceedings and related costs. Finally, it may give you peace of mind as you will have your final words and wishes in writing. 

Do I Need a Will?

The answer will vary depending on your situation. It depends on your age, the size of your estate, family situation—and more. However, in most cases, having a will is a good way to avoid many problems and make sure your loved ones are safe.

Here are some basic benefits of having a will:

  • First, you get to have a say in what happens to your property and assets after you are no longer here. You can select your beneficiaries and choose what they get. You can also choose to disinherit certain family members.
  • Second, a will makes sure that your loved ones are safe and helps avoid family disputes. With all your assets clearly distributed, there will be no reason for family members to argue—and no legal premise for doing so either.
  • Having a will can help you assign responsibilities and manage what happens to a business or part of a business that you own. 
  • You can select a charity to donate your money to, thus creating a legacy and helping a cause you feel strongly about.
  • A will also lets you make gestures and give specific things to specific people. For instance, you can leave your favorite book or a family heirloom to someone you care about.
  • A will is not always about money. If you have children, you can nominate a guardian for them in your will. You can also include a clause in your will that will take care of your pets.

Not having a will, on the other hand, can lead to a variety of unpleasant complications. Here are some examples:

  • You will have no impact on what happens to your estate. Without a will, your estate may need to go through probate court, and the rules of intestate succession will be followed. The order of succession will be as follows: surviving spouse or partner, children, parents, siblings, and then extended family members.
  • If you don’t leave a will, your loved ones may have to go through a tedious legal process and incur additional costs to handle the matters of your estate.
  • Having a will means you grant specific assets to specific people. You can also set a beneficiary for every valuable item or asset that you possess. Everything that hasn’t been assigned will be considered residuary estate, and you can also divide it among several beneficiaries.
  • If you are a parent, without a will you won’t be able to decide what happens to your child or children. In most cases, in the absence of the will, their custody will be awarded to the surviving parent or a guardian chosen by the state. If this is not an option, your child/children may even have to enter the foster care system.

As you can see, a lot of problems and expenses can generally be avoided by setting up a will.

How Do I Set Up a Will?

There are different ways you can go about making your will.

First, you can hire a lawyer to take care of the will-making process for you. In this case, you will need to pay a certain amount in legal fees. The lawyer you work with will guide you through the will-making process and advise you on the various aspects of dividing your estate and naming beneficiaries. They will also make sure your will is a complete and valid legal document.

If you have substantial assets, complicated family dynamics, or other specific circumstances, it’s best to hire a lawyer.

Second, you can use a will-making kit or specialized software to compose a will. A quick web search will show you many templates and other options for making a will online. Some of these options are free—and some require a fee, typically under $50. Most of the more expensive will-making kits and software will have clear and detailed instructions on how to structure and write your will. They will also explain the related legal terms.

Using this type of software or online template leaves little room for customization. Many of these programs will have very few suggestions for making a will and won’t consider your personal circumstances. Another potential issue is that you can make a mistake in your will that will make it unclear or even invalid. The software you are using may not be able to catch it.

Because of the above, this approach is mostly suitable for standard and simple wills. It is also recommended to have the will kit or software you are using checked by a lawyer to make sure it has been designed properly.

Finally, you can make a will yourself. This is known as the holographic will. In this case, you will simply handwrite/type and sign the will yourself, with two witnesses present. The main advantage of such a procedure is that it is absolutely free. 

The main drawbacks are also quite clear. First of all, not all states recognize a holographic will and honor it. Second, there is a lot of room for mistakes here. Your craft will may be missing some essential information or include contradictory details. 

If you decide to write a will yourself, do proper research and make sure your will is recognized by the state you reside in. 

How Much Does It Cost To Make a Will?

Depending on how you go about making your will, you will face different costs.

If you decide to hire a lawyer to make your will, you can expect them to charge you a set fee for a package of services. How much depends on a number of factors such as the size of your estate, family situation, business ownership, etc. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, these costs can range from a few hundred dollars (if your situation is very simple) or thousands of dollars in upfront fees (if you have many assets).

If you go with a will-making kit, online template, or software, you can expect to pay from $0 to $50 or more. Note that free online templates may not be as comprehensive as needed or not offer much explanation on the best practices for composing a will.

Finally, if you write a will yourself, you won’t have to pay anything to anyone, at least initially. Unfortunately, additional costs may arise if your will is incomplete and invalid, and these may need to be handled by your family, after your death.

How to Save Money on Setting Up a Will?

Another way to go about setting up your will is to use unbundled legal services. Here’s how it’s different. 

Most lawyers will charge you a set fee for a full scope of services. This is why these fees tend to be rather high. However, if your will is simple, you may only need to hire legal help for a portion of the will-making process. For instance, you may want to have your final draft reviewed by a lawyer or get a consultation on handling taxes and debts. With unbundled legal services, you can hire a lawyer for a specific task and, as a result, pay a much lower legal fee. You can even hire a lawyer to review the will-making kit you plan on using.

Alternatively, if you decide that you require a full scope of legal services to set up your will, you can still contact an unbundled lawyer for a consultation and price quote. At Unbundled Legal Help, we can connect you today with a local unbundled attorney who specializes in setting up wills.

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