A last will and testament, usually just called a will, lays out what you want to happen to all of your belongings and assets after you die. Working with an estate planning lawyer is historically the most common way to make a will, and $300 is a good benchmark cost of making a simple will with an attorney.
In many cases, a simple will covers someone who has a modest estate and is passing all their assets to their spouse or children. Many people include additional documents — like a living will and a power of attorney — to their estate plan, and having a lawyer draft them could add hundreds of dollars to your final bill and tip your total costs over $1,000.
The least expensive way to make a will is to write one by yourself. But this has its drawbacks, since a poorly constructed will can be thrown out in court and prolong the probate process after you die. As an alternative you can make a will online for much less. Online wills can be as valid as those drafted by a lawyer, and you may be able to get other estate planning documents for free when you make your will.
Cost of making a will with a lawyer
The cost of working with a lawyer to draft a will varies widely depending on:
Where they're located
How much experience they have
Their fee structure
A lawyer in a big city might charge twice as much (or more) than a similar lawyer in a less-populated area. Lawyers with more experience or specific expertise are also likely to have higher fees.
Creating a simple will may be a flat fee, while creating a more complicated will could result in extra work for the lawyer that you’ll have to pay for at an hourly rate. Some experts estimate an attorney’s hourly fee to be $200 to $250. You may also pay other costs for an initial consultation, additional legal advice, or if you need to change or update your will.
As explained by Pat Hanzel, certified financial planner and advanced planning specialist for Policygenius, "Depending on the situation, hiring an attorney to create a legal will can often cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. The more complex the estate, the more complex and expensive the will could be.”
Why you could pay more for a will
There are multiple factors that may affect will prices. Where you live could have a big effect on the cost of a will; state laws vary and creating certain documents can be more complicated in certain states.
Here are some common reasons why it might cost more to make a will:
You want to leave assets to members of a blended family (such as when you're divorced or remarried).
You want to exclude children or a spouse from your will.
You want to create a testamentary trust through your will (Expect to pay at least $1,000 if you ask a lawyer to create the trust.)
You need other estate planning documents in addition to a will.
You have a wealthy estate with many assets, including extensive real estate property or overseas assets.
How much does it cost to make a will online?
It has become very common in recent years for people to make online wills, with prices generally ranging from nothing to about $300.
The cost of making a will goes up or down depending on what the will-writing service offers, and you may even be able to get a will for free. Additionally, some services may charge a flat fee for simple wills, and then cost more for if you have certain complex situations (like those listed above), or need additional legal documents and advice.
When you make a will without a lawyer, it must follow all the requirements for a valid will in your state. Even a small mistake could allow someone to challenge your will, dragging out probate and resulting in more court and legal fees for your beneficiaries and loved ones. (Contesting a will can be costly.)
If you're using digital service to create your will, make sure it’s been vetted by real attorneys to ensure the accuracy and validity of your will.