How Much Does an Estate Lawyer Cost?

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The cost of creating an estate plan with an estate planning attorney varies according to many factors. Generally, there are two main factors which determine the cost, what time of plan is needed and how the attorney charges their clients.

Other factors may include: 

  • The experience of the attorney; 
  • The location of the estate plan;
  • How complex or in-depth the estate plan is; and
  • The value of the estate.

For example, if an individual’s estate plan only includes a living trust, that individual may be able to create and file their living trust by downloading the required forms from the local court’s website. The process may cost less than $100.

However, if an individual wants to create a living trust, they should consult an attorney to ensure the living trust is legally enforceable, valid, and includes all of the proper assets. Having an attorney draft the trust will save the individual’s loved ones from future legal disputes regarding the assets. 

As noted above, the cost will also be affected by the fee arrangement, location, attorney expertise, and other factors discussed below. Because of the variances, an estate lawyer may cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000.

This amount may also depend on whether or not the cost includes a filing fee, which is set by the local court. Due to these factors, estate lawyer costs are unique to each individual and their situation.

There are a few types of fee schedules that an attorney may use to bill their clients. These may include hourly rates and flat fees.

When an attorney charges an hourly rate, their compensation is based on the amount of hours they work. In some cases, they will also charge a retainer fee. Retainer fees are amounts that are paid in advance and are based on the hourly rate of the lawyer.

Retainer fees can be compared to down payments. Fees and costs which are related to the case are deducted from the retain fee.

Once the retainer fee is used, the lawyer will begin charging their hourly rate. A retainer fee is usually non-refundable.

A flat fee arrangement is more likely to be used in an estate planning case. If the case is simple, such as a simple will or a trust, the attorney may charge one amount to complete the work.

What Factors are Used When Determining Estate Lawyer Fees?

As previously discussed, there are many factors which determine the average cost of an estate lawyer. In addition, an attorney with years of experience in a larger city will charge a higher fee than an attorney in a smaller town who just opened a practice. 

Other factors which may affect the cost include:

  • The type of representation; 
  • The services that will be performed; and
  • The type of fee arrangement for the case.

The type of representation, especially in estate cases, will be a large factor in determining the cost. The more assets an individual has and the more complex their estate plan, the more the cost will rise. 

The services which will be performed also affect the cost. If an individual wants several estate planning services, such as a will, a trust, and tax advice, as opposed to just a simple will, their cost will rise.

The type of fee arrangement is another factor in the cost of an estate lawyer. The overall cost will vary depending on whether the lawyer:

  • Charges a flat fee; or
  • Is on retainer and provides advice on an as-needed basis.

Factors which may be considered when determining the lawyer’s fees include:

  • The amount of time and the effort that the case will require;
  • How difficult the case is projected to be;
  • The skills which are required to perform the legal services;
  • The fees that are typically charged in the area for similar legal services by attorneys with similar skills, reputation and experience; and
  • The extent of the services the client wants performed.

What Services Do Estate Lawyers Typically Provide?

Estate lawyers typically provide various services related to estate planning. Estate planning provides instruction for other individuals regarding how to manage and distribute an individual’s property, personal belongings, and assets when they pass away or become incapacitated. 

The legal issues involved in estate planning are complex. Because of this, it is essential for the representative of the deceased individual’s estate, known as the executor or administrator, to work with an estate planning attorney to simplify the process as much as possible.

Estate planning lawyers may handle matters such as:

  • Preparing and drafting an individual’s will;
  • Setting up a living trust;
  • Finding ways in which the individual can reduce estate taxes;
  • Determining ways to legally avoid the probate process, such as using gifts or trusts;
  • Creating power of attorney documents; and
  • Updating estate plans when it is required in accordance with new estate planning laws or when changing the terms of a will.

An individual can retain an estate planning attorney to assist them in making their will or determining what to do in the event they pass away or become in capacitated. The attorney will review their assets, discuss their wishes, and provide them with the best plan for their needs.

Estate planning attorneys can plan an individual’s estate down to the last detail. They are trained to consider issues that the client may not have considered, such as:

  • Whether or not the individual wants to donate your organs after passing;
  • Who will be responsible for caring for any minor children;
  • How an individual wants to dispose of their digital property, such as social media accounts;
  • What individuals will be in charge of their business interests, if they have any; and
  • How or if they wish to receive medical treatment for certain ailments or procedures.

Some individuals prefer to use estate planning to avoid the probate process, if possible. The probate process is where the individual’s assets are distributed according to their will.

The probate process is designed to settle an individual’s estate, pay off any debts they owe, and distribute their property. It can sometimes be a lengthy process and disputes may arise, so some individuals prefer to avoid having the courts involved in their property distribution if possible.

What are the Advantages to Hiring an Estate Attorney?

There are many advantages to hiring an estate attorney. Having an estate plan makes an individual’s passing or incapacitation much easier to bear for their loved ones because they know what the individual’s wishes were. 

Additional benefits to creating an estate plan include:

  • Ensuring that the individual’s property and assets will be distributed to the desired individual, or beneficiary;
  • Reducing the amount of taxes and other costs that the estate may be required to pay;
  • Avoiding the possibility of having to go through the probate process;
  • Minimizing the risk of future legal disputes among family members regarding the estate;
  • Making sure that a business continues to run even after an individual’s death; and
  • Providing simple guidance to loved ones regarding property matters, medical treatments, and funeral arrangements, so they do not have to worry about making such difficult decisions at an already difficult time.

Another very important benefit of an estate plan is that it provides protection for family members and loved ones because it outlines the individuals last wishes and it prevents their property from being distributed to the wrong individual it also prevents any property from being taken by the state pursuant to intestate laws.

Should I Hire an Estate Attorney?

Yes, it is essential to hire an experienced estate attorney to assist you with any estate needs or questions you may have. Even if you do not have a large estate or want to set up multiple estate planning documents, a simple will can provide you and your loved ones with security for the future.

You do not have to know exactly what instruments you want to use when you consult with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney will review your estate, listen to your wishes, and create a personalized plan for you that meets all of your needs.

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