The Secrets to How Attorney-prepared Wills Are Priced

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If you've already done a bit of research or talked with friends who made their last wills, you probably know that making a will with an attorney typically costs between $300-$1500+.

But did you know these two secrets to how attorney-prepared wills are priced?

#1 – Your Attorney-Prepared Will Came from a Template

The first secret to the cost of preparing a will with an attorney is that the attorney is almost certainly using one of several standard templates to prepare your will. Either the attorney has her own starter template developed and maintained by her law firm, or the attorney is using a template from Wealth Counsel, Interactive Legal, or a similar legal document drafting software for attorneys. During or after your interview, the attorney or a paralegal will input your information into the template to create your will.

There is nothing wrong with using a starter template. Starter templates save a significant amount of time, which helps keep the cost of creating a will more affordable, and they also reduce the risk of drafting errors. Moreover, an experienced estate planning attorney can help make sure that you avoid drafting mistakes like the 10 Common Mistakes for Will Drafting or 10 (More) Mistakes for Will Drafting.

As with any template-based system, drafting a will with a template can lead to a “garbage-in, garbage-out” result if you or the attorney are not careful. That’s why we built Just In Case Estates’ online last will and testament drafting system with helpful hints and information throughout the process, supported by an extensive library of learning resources and a world-class customer support team.

#2 – Your Attorney Isn’t Making that Much Money from Drafting Your Will

While it may seem like $300 - $1500+ for 20 something pieces of paper is a lot of money to part with, the second secret to the cost of preparing a will with an attorney is that the attorney is probably not making very much money on drafting your will. Even if the attorney’s rate lands on the higher end of the range, the billable hours preparing a last will and testament and ancillary documents like a durable financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will are fairly well bounded.

Many people mistakenly believe that the cost of a will is all in the creation of the will. In reality, the true cost of a will tends to overwhelmingly be on administering the will through the probate process. While an attorney may charge a flat fee or only a few hours for creating a will, that same attorney will charge a percentage of the estate or tens of billable hours to help administer the will through the probate process.

bar graph of illustrative cost of a will with $150,000 in assets
Illustrative Cost of a Last Will with $150,000 in assets in California, where probate attorney and executor fees are dictated by statute. The $5,500 in probate attorney fees are more than 18x the $300 price the attorney charged to help create the will

If you have a small estate, your executor is well educated on the duties of an executor and the probate process, or you reach an agreement in advance with your preferred probate attorney, you should be able to lower the amount of attorney support and billable hours required to clear probate.