Writing a will is one of the best things you can do for your loved ones. It gets all of your affairs in order, which means your family won’t have to worry about handling money, guardianship and other assets after your death. Despite its importance, only four out of 10 adults in the U.S. have a will or living trust.¹ An online search will be a helpful first step in learning about what’s involved with creating these two types of documents.
Lawyers offer their services at various costs. The good news is many will give you a free consultation before you decide whether or not to hire them. Just search online to find a lawyer for hire near you.
Here’s what you should know about hiring a will and trust lawyer.
What Does a Will and Living Trust Lawyer Do?
Before you know what a will and living trust lawyer does, it’s important to know the difference between these two documents.²
A will is used after your death. It’s a document that expresses a deceased person’s wishes and becomes active once that person dies. A person will describe how they want their affairs and assets handled, as well as how they want their funeral to be held. Without a will, the state will oversee the distribution of your assets.
A living trust is active the day a person creates it. It’s essentially a will that is revocable and can be changed while you are still alive. The distribution of assets can be listed before death.
When making a will or living trust, it’s helpful to hire an estate planning attorney. These professionals work to help you understand the legal process involving finances, power of attorney, health care directives, guardianship or conservatorship matters and more.³ This lawyer also works to make a plan that mitigates or avoids estate taxes.
You should find a lawyer who you trust will take care of your estate after you’re gone. Not only that, but you should also find one whose costs you can afford.
How Much Do Will and Living Trust Lawyer Services Cost?
Lawyer fees can be really confusing and expensive. There are several different ways lawyers charge for their services. The cost can depend on a number of factors, such as how complex your family or financial situation is.
The first common way estate lawyers charge is with a flat fee. This price can range anywhere from $300 to $1,200 depending on the draft being written.⁴ A lawyer’s experience and expertise plays a big role in how much they charge. The flat fee will cover the written will and other basic estate planning documents.
It can be easier for lawyers when they don’t need to keep track of time while working for clients, allowing them to use standard sets of clauses they can adjust to fit their client’s needs. Plus, you won’t have to worry about asking lawyers a question and wondering if you’re being charged every time you talk to them when they charge by the hour.
The second way of payment is hourly billing. It would be hard to find a rate lower than $150 per hour in small towns and $200 in a city.⁵ Those looking for lower rates may want to contact a smaller firm. To keep track of time, lawyers will bill in six-minute increments so you’re never billed for less than six minutes of a lawyer’s time.
There are pros and cons to lawyers who charge a flat fee or by the hour. Consider how much labor your lawyer will be putting into your affairs. If it’s an intensive process, a flat fee might be safer to avoid added costs with every consultation.
Search Online to Find a Will and Living Trust Lawyer
Take your time when searching for a lawyer. You want to find someone that is affordable and that you trust, especially since this person will likely be handling your affairs after you’re gone. There are plenty of resources for you to find a lawyer online.
If you have any friends or family who already have a will or living trust, consider asking for a referral. You can ask them how their experience was with the lawyer to see if they would be a fit for you. You could even talk to your financial advisor, accountant or previous attorneys you’ve worked to see who they recommend.