Thousands of people pass away each year without leaving behind any formal instructions for administration of their estates. This is likely due, at least in part, to the misconception that making a will is a prohibitive expense. In reality, the cost of establishing a will is almost always directly tied to the size of your estate. Most testators with simple estates and nominal net worth can expect to pay as little as $100 for retaining an attorney to make a will, and even less to draft a will themselves. The higher your estate’s net worth, the more you can expect to pay for creating a will.
Making a Basic Will
A basic will is suitable for “simple” estates with less than $1 million in total assets. For the majority who fit this criterion, a basic will is more than sufficient to protect the testator’s interests. You can establish your own basic will using pre-made forms or templates, which can cost around $10 to $150, depending on the services included. Will-making software, which generates a will for you based on your input, can cost around $20 to $100, and you can re-use the software to update your will whenever you need.
Making a Complex Will
For estates with a combined net worth exceeding $1 million, or with a significant number of assets, a complex will is usually more appropriate. Most “do-it-yourself” services available to consumers are not suitable for complex wills, so it is more advisable to retain an attorney to draft your will. An experienced attorney can draft your entire will for as little as $250, although if you have significant assets or confusing circumstances, you can expect to pay as much as $5,000.
Making a Will with a Living Trust
If you want to establish a living trust along with your will, you can expect to pay significantly more in up-front costs. While your estate does not require funding at the time you establish your will, your living trust does, and you cannot form the trust until you have the assets to do so. On the plus side, your costs are directly tied to the worth of your living trust — if you only intend to form a trust to manage $50,000 in assets, then this is your only expense in addition to the costs you incur establishing your will.
Read More: Advantages & Disadvantages of a Last Will Vs. a Living Trust
Making a Will as a Business Owner
Business owners can expect to pay about twice the costs of writing a will, depending on the value of their estates. If your business is your only significant asset, for example, a basic will may still be the appropriate choice, so you can expect to pay between $250 and $500 to establish your will. If you own or control multiple businesses, or you hold significant assets in addition to your business, you can expect to pay around $5,000 to $10,000 to retain an attorney to create your will.
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.