How much does a will cost? How much does a living trust cost?

By far, for new callers to our office, one of the most common questions we receive is “How much does a will cost?” or “How much does a living trust cost?”

I believe this question at its core largely arises because most people don’t know what other questions to ask and how to distinguish from one lawyer from the next. I completely understand, and we've created a resource to help with this, which I'll share with you at the end of this Q & A. But first, I'd like you to consider the following example:

If you were having stomach pains, would you expect to call up your doctor and ask, "Doc, I have a stomach ache. How much will it cost to get rid of it?" Or, "I just need a simple appendectomy. How much do you charge for that?"

Of course not! You would want them to take the time to meet with you, understand your symptoms, develop a diagnosis, and discuss treatment options with you. When you have to choose a doctor, you do it based on their proven abilities, their bedside manner, and their reputation. You should beware of anyone who can quote you a price without taking the time to get to know you, your concerns, and your vision for the future.

Order Takers and Dictators

Unfortunately, there are a lot of lawyers who fall into the category of either "order taker" or "dictator." Order takers have you do your own diagnosis and write your own prescription. Dictators give you a prescription without learning anything about you. Neither of them take the time to listen. That's just not how our firm works.

We have spent years developing a process we call The Vision Method. It centers around the idea that your planning should be designed according to you, your family, and your vision for the future. Your first meeting with our firm--your Vision Meeting--is about getting to know who you are and what you want to achieve.

That means that until that meeting, we don't know enough about you to present you with planning options. That said, here are some things to consider...

Considerations For Your Estate Plan

First, it is entirely possible that you just need a "simple will."  I strongly urge you to attend one of our seminars or read our report, Estate Planning Pitfalls to discover what we believe even the bare essential plans should do, as well as some objectives your plan can accomplish you might not have known about.

Second, you should know that all wills are not the same, nor are all living trusts, nor are powers of attorney or any of the other documents included in your estate plan. Please read what I'm about to say carefully: I've reviewed literally thousands of prior documents that clients have brought in from other attorneys. Some of them were pretty good. But a lot of them weren't worth the paper they were printed on.

To put it bluntly, they got ripped off. We've seen plans that made some obvious and very serious omissions, plans that didn't take the clients' unique family situations into account, and plans that used complicated techniques that were outdated, no longer necessary, and, frankly, unlikely to work.

Unfortunately, you don't know what you don't know. And worse, no one finds out until it's too late. And that's when we see things like family members never talking to one another again because Mom or Dad left such a mess to clean up when they died.

I want you to consider the value of knowing that your plan is done right. Consider the value of accomplishing exactly what you envision for your family after you're gone.

"Sounds Expensive..."

If that sounds expensive, I can assure you that the cost of doing it twice--or of doing it wrong and not finding out until it's too late--the cost of doing it wrong is much more expensive in the long run.

Our firm will never be the cheapest firm in the area. We are not the firm with 2-page form or template documents. The race to the bottom leads to cutting corners, and we have been doing this long enough to know that cutting corners does not get people where they want to go. We have hired an excellent team of talented individuals. We have put a lot of time and money into educating our team and the community at large. We are constantly working to improve our abilities and our work product. We know what it takes to do a good job. So whenever we encounter another firm competing on price, we can’t help but wonder what they might be leaving out...

Most of our estate plans are available on a flat fee basis, but the fees may vary depending on the specific items and provisions of the plan and the goals achieved by the plan. Thus, we have plans that range from over $1,000 to the tens of thousands of dollars. 

Our fees are not dependent on the size of the estate. We have had clients with net worths in the millions whose goals led them to choose our bare essentials plans. We have had clients opt to pay thousands of dollars now to protect tens or hundreds of thousands down the road.

So how do you figure out what you really need, what good planning can do, and what value is provided? It starts with education, through the resources available here on our website and in our seminars. If you have questions, or when you are ready to schedule your one-on-one Vision Meeting, call us at 919-443-3035 or contact us online. We are here to help explore your planning objectives, identify your specific needs and goals, then we’ll match that up with the right estate plan for you and your family.

About that resource to help you differentiate one firm from another: we've put together a six-step process and a scorecard, which you can access here for our upcoming report, How to Choose a Will or Trust Lawyer: A Guide for Finding, Interviewing, and Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney So You Can Avoid Getting Ripped Off and Leaving Your Friends and Family with a Great Big Mess When You Die.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning