Estate Plan costs vary depending on who does the work. A do-it-yourself solution may be quite cheap, but could easily be full of holes. For a good estate plan, you should use an estate planning attorney who has the experience to give you what you need, without the holes.
- Basic Estate Planning Forms: $300 – $500
- A Paralegal Prepared “Estate Plan” $500 – $800
- An Attorney Prepared Estate Plan $1500 – $2000
- A Complex Estate Plan by an Attorney $3000+
Hi, my name is Jordan Flake. I’m an estate planning attorney with Clear Counsel Law Group. One question that we get all the time – and it’s a very legitimate question.
In fact, nearly every client asks this, and they should ask this … Is, “What’s your fee for preparing an estate plan?”
Now, for the purpose of estate plan, I’m going to use the idea of a living trust because that’s what many people end up needing if you have the standard range of assets, where you own a house and a few bank accounts and maybe retirement accounts like insurance policies, things like that.
A lot of people will fall into the category of wanting a basic revocable living trust package which includes the trust, the will, power of attorney documents and possibly a deed transferring a house to the trust, so it’s kind of your basic estate planning package that you would get.
When we talk about preparing this, the costs on the marketplace can range from maybe six or seven hundred dollars on the low end to thirty-five hundred dollars plus on the high end for this basic living trust package.
I just want to talk a little bit about why is there this big difference in cost and how can you as a potential consumer be savvy about the differences between a lower cost estate plan package and a higher cost estate plan package.
I Understand Your Perspective; Lawyers are Also Consumers
Let me first tell you that attorneys are consumers too. We go out in the world and we have to purchase things and I can tell you that when my car breaks down or if I ever have a mechanical issue, I’m not inclined, I’m not the kind of guy who can just pop open the trunk when the smoke is pouring out and then take the wrench and impress my wife by how quickly I get it all taken care of. That’s not me. I have to take the car in and I have this kind of paranoia inducing moment where I’m talking to this mechanic and he or she seems like a really good person who’s not going to overcharge me but I’m not really sure.
I feel pretty vulnerable in that situation because really I don’t know if this fix is something that could be done for a hundred dollars or if the fix should be costing a thousand dollars and I’m worried because I don’t have that knowledge and I feel pretty vulnerable.
I take that experience and I say, “Every day clients are going to come to me and they’re going to feel some of that same vulnerability. They’re not going to know whether or not the knowledge and skill set that I possess is worth several hundred dollars or thirty-five hundred plus dollars,” so our goal at Clear Counsel Law Group is to provide you with complete transparency with respect to what the services are, what they’re going to cost and very importantly what similar services are going to cost on the open marketplace.
Why There is a Range of Cost for an Estate Plan
Let’s just take this basic estate planning package for example and you can get this basic estate planning package, you can find it out there for four, five, six, seven hundred dollars. You can find all those documents. You can also pay upwards of thirty-five hundred dollars for all those same documents.
There’s a lot of room in between, but most law firms are going to charge somewhere in the fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars to prepare all these documents. Why is there so much variance? That can be attributable to the fact that on the lower end, some of these documents are being offered by paralegal services.
This kind of frustrates me as an attorney because that paralegal, I’m not so concerned that they’re undercutting the marketplace. I’m not one to care if the marketplace gives you good product for less money. I say, “Great. If that’s the place the market is headed, so be it.”
I’m not going to try to change that.
I’m going to try to beat it in fact.
The reality is, is that a paralegal doesn’t have the license to practice law and so yes, it might be a little big less expensive to hire a paralegal but there’s no governing body like the state bar that’s holding that paralegal strictly accountable for being competent and for being ethical and for managing client’s money in the proper way.
Really that paralegal shouldn’t be practicing any type of law in the first place. They should get shut down for the unauthorized practice of law.
Why a Licensed Attorney Should Draft Your Estate Plan
In contrast, as attorneys, the state bar is there to watch over us and make sure that we’re always competent and always ethical and if you as the client have any type of issues with any of the attorneys then you can actually go to the state bar.
Furthermore, a paralegal is not going to get malpractice insurance. They’re not going to be qualified to have an insurance company come along and insure their practice of law because they’re not licensed to practice law.
As an attorney, if we happen to make a mistake, any attorney, they’ll have malpractice insurance in place to make sure that you don’t have to pay for their mistake.
The attorney can pay for the mistake, not you. That’s not something you get with a paralegal.
When you do pay a little bit more money for an attorney to prepare these documents as opposed to a paralegal, understand that what you’re getting is you’re getting the guarantee of having malpractice insurance in place.
You’re getting the oversight provided by the state bar and then I’d say the very most important thing that you’re getting is the experience and the knowledge to make sure that it’s being done properly.
Don’t Worry If Your Estate Plan Was Not Drafted by a Lawyer, I Can Fix It.
I see this all the time. I have individuals who come in and they say, “I don’t think that the person who prepared this document was even an attorney.”
They’ll bring me a trust, this basic trust package that I’m talking about and they say, “Yeah, a financial advisor or a paralegal prepared this for me.” I’ll look through there and invariably I’ll find something that just required a little bit of experience, a little bit of nuance and a little bit of our knowledge but they totally missed it in the underlying documents and it had the potential to cause them huge problems.
I’m going to give you a quick example.
I had a woman in here who has a child who has special needs. That child is currently receiving governmental assistance.
The trust that was prepared by the paralegal would have just given an outright distribution to this child who had special needs upon the passing of the client. If she passed away and an outright distribution went to this child, that child would have lost their government assistance and would have after a few years just been totally destitute.
That paralegal or that financial advisor didn’t have the legal background that allowed them to say, “Aha. That child has special needs. That child needs what’s called a special needs trust where we can control that money in a way that won’t affect their ability to receive governmental assistance.”
Proper Estate Planning Should Not Be Done With a Form
It’s just little things like that. It’s the nuances. Think about how important your family is to you and how important your assets are to you and then just think are you going to entrust that to an individual who doesn’t have a license to practice law.
If you’re being really honest with yourself I think you’re going to say, “No. I don’t want to take any risks with this. It’s too important. It involves my loved ones, involves my hard-earned assets to which I gave my life taking care of my profession and my savings to make this happen.”
You don’t want to entrust that to somebody who doesn’t have the skills necessary to make sure it’s done properly.
That’s the lower end of the spectrum. On the higher end of the spectrum, I have a very high opinion of the attorneys here in Nevada. I feel like most of the attorneys that I know are going to give you a fair shake. They’re going to try to be forthright and honest with you.
I do think that there are some outliers on this end of the spectrum who may be somewhat relying on your lack of knowledge and experience, to charge you more for services that another attorney would charge you much less to provide the same services. I am concerned about that. I don’t think that as an attorney I have the right to use your lack of knowledge unfairly to my economic advantage.
Obviously, to some extent I do have the knowledge and I should be compensated for that so that question of where does it become unfair is the real issue. That’s where you’re going to see most attorneys clumped into this same area where we’re within five to eight hundred dollars of each other.
These outliers where it’s way lower, that should raise a concern or these other outliers where it’s a lot more expensive, that should raise some concerns too.
In any event, our goal at Clear Counsel Law Group is to provide complete transparency for why we’re charging what we’re charging. Our goal and ninety-nine percent of the time we’re able to achieve this, is after the initial consultation we will tell you exactly what you’re going to pay.
It will be a flat fee and it will be all-inclusive of everything that you have asked us to perform. There won’t be any doubt as to whether or not you get slapped with additional fees or charges at the end of the day.
There won’t be any concern that if I take a two hour nap and I dream about my client, that I hit him with a seven hundred dollar bill because, “Well, I technically was working on your case, Mrs. Jones.” Nothing like that.
That’s where we call ourselves Clear Counsel Law Group because we prize that kind of transparency with our clientele to where you have the peace of mind that you know exactly what you’re paying for, you know exactly how it compares to the rest of the marketplace and you can rest assured that we will provide the services that we said we’d provide at the cost and with the fees that we agreed to.
Please feel free to give us a call. There is no charge for the consultation. That’s when we come in and talk about the different options. Once you select an option, then we talk about the cost for providing that service.
Then we provide the service and you pay that amount and what we hope we get out of that transaction is a life-long client.
We want it to be a super-positive experience for you and for us so that you can come back to us in the future with any other legal needs or questions.
Feel free to give me a call. We’ll meet for a consultation and then we’ll discuss the options.
Thank you so much.