A common question asked is how much estate planning will cost. Unfortunately, this is not easily answered by any attorney.
Numerous factors play into the cost. Not only do attorneys have set rates and hourly fees that vary, but then there are those factors that can increase the complexity of an estate plan and cost more. Instead of scouring the web to find a flat fee or estimated cost, you should understand each layer that goes into pricing, then consult with an attorney to find out how much your estate plan would cost you – rather than comparing the averages online.
Initial Consultation Is Usually at No Charge
Most estate planning attorneys offer free upfront consultations. That means you can meet with an attorney free of charge for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how they work consultation appointments). You will go over your needs, and the attorney can then tell you how much your plan may cost. An attorney can also determine if you qualify for a flat fee or if you will need to pay by the hour due to the complexity of your estate.
By far the best way to find out how much it will cost you is to talk with an attorney in person. Once they understand what you need, your estate’s current asset value, and look over your financials, they can tell you what to expect.
From there, shop around, get a few estimates, but also consider how you feel about each attorney you meet with before you pick one.
The Flat-Fee Estate Planning Doesn’t Work for Everyone
Some attorneys offer a flat fee for an estate plan. The flat rate will include your basic preparation of estate documents, including creating a final will and having it witnessed, notarized, and filed. Some lawyers might even help with a trust under flat-fee plans, but most attorneys prefer to work hourly on trusts as they are rather complicated and hard to predict in a flat fee plan.
If you do meet with an attorney that charges a flat rate, ask for all fees that are outside of the rate. Sometimes, the flat rate only covers the draft of your will and not the notary or other steps required to complete the legal process.
Hourly Rates for Estate Planning May Apply
More complicated estates, and those that need more than a final will, often are charged by the hour. Attorneys tend to keep their hourly rates competitive with others offering estate planning in the area, so you shouldn’t pay an outrageous amount for one lawyer compared to another.
When an attorney charges by the hour, you will want to ask how they calculate hours. Some round up, so a ten-minute conversation might be billed in 15-minute or 30-minute increments. Also, you will want to ask how emails and quick phone calls play into your hourly rate so that you do not accidentally spend more of your retainer just asking a quick question over email.
Do not assume that the higher an attorney’s hourly fee, the more experience they have. While respected attorneys may charge more, there are equally qualified attorneys who charge less because they want to help the public unlock protections rather than charge enormous fees for estate planning.
Compare the hourly fees from multiple attorneys you meet during your free consultations. Also, make sure there are no flat fees on top of the hourly, such as filing fees you may have to pay in addition to your attorney’s hourly rate.
Likewise, when an attorney charges by the hour, they typically require a retainer, which is an upfront down payment on your legal services. Then, you will receive hourly statements and billing, and the attorney’s office will deduct those from your retainer.
Items That Complicate Your Estate Plan – and May Cost You More
Some factors can increase the cost of your estate plan, and some of these will force an attorney to deviate from a flat rate and move to hourly.
Some items that complicate an estate planning process include:
- Multiple Children: If you have multiple children and you want to provide assets to them upon your death, you may need a trust to protect those assets and dictate how they are distributed.
- Assets in Multiple States: Do you own property in more than one state? Now your attorney will need to address that property, the laws of that state, and consider all variables when drafting your estate plan.
- High Value Estate: If you have a high value estate, you do not want your loved ones to pay estate taxes upon your death. So, your attorney will need to work creatively to distribute assets, donate to charities when applicable, and find ways to save your family money.
Remember the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to do an Estate Plan for You – Don’t Just Look at the Price Tag
Before considering just the price tag, think about the benefit to hiring an attorney. When you hire an estate planning lawyer, you are unlocking years of experience and knowledge and you can enjoy peace of mind knowing your estate plan was done correctly and follows the law – saving loved one’s time and hassle later.
Most importantly, never pick an attorney solely by price. Instead, assess how you feel after your consultation, whether you could talk with them freely and create a good rapport, and if you feel they can handle your estate properly.
Ready to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney? Contact a Local NYC Lawyer Today
If you are ready to protect your assets and loved ones, contact a local estate planning attorney. Attorney Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., can help you with your estate plan, trusts, and even setting aside assets for minor children to ensure they are taken care of if something were to happen to you.
Schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate’s needs and get an estimate on how much your plan would cost by calling 516-605-0625 or requesting more information online.