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How much does a will cost?

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While it may cost at least $400 to create a will with your lawyer, you can now create a will with the Policygenius app for just $120.

Derek Silva

Published August 4, 2020

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • An estate lawyer may charge you anywhere from $100 to $1,000 for a will

  • Adding additional estate documents, like a power of attorney, may add hundreds of dollars to the cost

  • Online services may charge half as much as a lawyer and they may include more than just a will

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 price for many people to have an estate lawyer create a simple will.

In many cases, a simple will covers someone who has a small estate and is passing all their assets to their spouse or children. You may also pay other attorney fees, like for an initial consultation or for additional legal advice. Some additional estate planning documents that are good for most people to have include a living will (to plan for end-of-life medical care) and a power of attorney (allowing someone to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf). These are common documents but they could add hundreds of dollars to your final bill. Drafting any additional documents could easily bring your bill over $1,000.

You can usually pay less — even as low as $120 — by using a digital service to create a will online. With any online service you use, ensure it uses attorney-approved tools. It may also be best to get other documents made in conjunction with your will so that you know none of them contradicts each other.

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Costs of making a will with a lawyer

The cost of working with a lawyer to make a will varies widely. For example, a lawyer in a big city might charge twice as much (or more) than a similar lawyer in less-populated areas. Lawyers with more experience or specific expertise are also likely to charge higher rates.

Creating a simple will may also have a set price, while creating a more complicated will could result in extra work that you pay for at an hourly rate. 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."

AARP states that a lawyer could cost you from $100 to $1,000 depending on where you live and your personal situation. Other experts estimate that it could cost “$200 to $250 an hour.

If you wanted to create a more comprehensive estate plan — will, trust, power of attorney, etc. — you could pay $2,000 or more, according to one lawyer’s estimate in the New York Times.

Learn more about how much estate lawyers cost.

Why your will may cost more

There are multiple factors that may cause your will to cost more. Where you live could have a big effect on the cost of a will. States’ laws vary and creating certain documents can be more complicated in certain states.

Here are some common reasons you’ll pay more for a will:

  • You’re leaving assets for members of a blended family (like stepchildren from a previous marriage), people who aren’t family, businesses, or organizations.
  • You want to exclude children or your spouse from your will.
  • You’re leaving assets to a dependent who has special needs, receives Medicaid, or otherwise needs a legal guardian.
  • You want to create a trust through your will. (Expect to pay at least $1,000 if you ask a lawyer to create the trust.)
  • You want to draft other estate planning documents in addition to a will.
  • You have a wealthy estate with many assets to distribute or many beneficiaries.
  • You have family that doesn’t get along and could try to contest your will either to increase their inheritance or limit someone else’s.
  • You need other legal advice from an estate lawyer, like how to minimize estate tax or inheritance tax.

Related article: When should I hire an estate lawyer?

The cost of creating a will online

It has become very common in recent years for people to create a will online, with prices generally ranging from nothing to about $300.

You can write a will yourself for free, but make sure that it follows all requirements for a valid will in your state. Even a small mistake could allow someone to contest your will, dragging out probate and costing your beneficiaries both time and money.

If you’re using an app or website to create your will, make sure the service is vetted by real attorneys to ensure the accuracy and validity of your will. With most services, there is one cost for basic wills, and then you’ll pay more for more certain complex situations, additional documents, or legal advice.

If you create your will through the Policygenius app, you can get a personalized will, a financial power of attorney, and a health care directive (living will) for $120. And our tools are attorney-approved.

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Personal Finance Expert

Derek Silva

Personal Finance Expert

Derek is a tax expert at Policygenius in New York City. He has written about multiple personal finance topics in the past, and his work has been covered by Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider and CNBC.

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