By establishing a will, you can ensure that your loved ones are cared for after your death, that your assets are distributed to your chosen beneficiaries, and that your final wishes are carried out exactly as you intend. Unfortunately, the anticipatory cost of hiring an attorney to draft a will often intimidates testators from establishing a will at all. In fact, there are many cost-effective solutions for writing a will yourself that allow you to plan for your family after your passing without forcing you to spend thousands of dollars.
Writing a Will Yourself
The least expensive way to prepare a will is to write it yourself. Using free samples you find online or following others relatives’ wills as a guide can help you form your own without forcing you to spend any money. If you are unfamiliar with your state probate laws, however, writing your own will without assistance could end up being the most costly decision of all. If your will is ruled invalid during probate, for example, the court will divide your assets following governing succession laws and your intended beneficiaries could be left with nothing.
Using Pre-Made Forms
Pre-made forms for do-it-yourself wills are now widely available both online and off; in fact, some of these resources are available at no cost. While it isn’t quite the same as hiring a professional, a pre-made form can help you create a no-frills will that meets your state probate guidelines without exceeding your budget. Sample forms can cost at little as $10 to $20 for a basic will, while complete fill-in-the-blank templates average around $100 to $500, depending on the complexity of your personal circumstances.
Will-making software is also widely available for those who want more control over creating their wills. Will-making software costs only a bit more than pre-made forms, and you can use the software repeatedly to add amendments or start over from scratch. New software can cost you around $100 to $250, or you can purchase an older version for around $20 to $50. Be careful when purchasing out-of-date software, however, as it may not adhere to the most recent applicable laws and your will could be ruled invalid after your death.
Retaining an Attorney
Hiring an attorney to draft a will for you is usually one of the more expensive options, but it is not quite as costly as many believe. For a simple estate, a basic will could cost as little as $100 to $150 for an attorney to complete — about the cost of a pre-made form — including your consultation and final review. The more complex your assets or circumstances, the more an attorney will charge for the service. You can expect to pay up to $5,000 for an estate with significant assets. Remember, though, that you are not simply paying for the will itself; you are paying for the benefits of having a qualified expert evaluate and protect your estate.
Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.