How much does an estate plan cost?
This is a loaded question because there is no quick, straightforward answer. For simplicity, there are generally four ways to have an estate plan and thus at least four ways it could cost.
First, you can do nothing. Your plan can be to not prepare anything. This will cost you nothing during your lifetime. Unfortunately, far too many people do this and it leaves your spouse, child(ren), parents, loved ones, or others with a mess. A legal mess, especially with an estate, means your beneficiaries will pay up to ten (10) times the cost that you would have if you planned in advance.
Second, the DIY (do-it-yourself) planner could spend little to no money creating an estate plan. However, the DIY’er spends hours and hours researching laws, pitfalls, and documents, downloading forms and documents, drafting legal documents, searching for witnesses and a notary with whom to sign his or her own documents, and buying organizational booklets or notebooks to organize everything. North Carolina law has specific requirements. Self-representation is usually not a good idea, especially with estate planning because you won’t be here to find out if you did it right.
Third, for the person with little time or interest but knows estate planning needs to be done, there are online options. These seem to provide upfront flat fee pricing. Beware, the original price posted online may not be the end cost. These options are usually among the least expensive. Sometimes online options give you time to talk to an attorney and sometimes they don’t. Of course it costs more to talk to an actual licensed North Carolina attorney. The two biggest problems with this option is (1) the documents are generic and may not be State specific enough to do what you need them to do; and (2) the documents are never executed (signed, or signed properly) and are therefore not valid. North Carolina law has very specific requirements that must be met and are not necessarily intuitive. Done wrong, which usually happens, gives a false sense of security.
Fourth, and probably the heart of this question, is what is the the cost of hiring an attorney to do an estate planning? Well, it is like almost everything else, “You get what you pay for”! The difficulty with an estate plan is when you search for fees, pricing, or costs online, most people do not know what they are paying for or what they really need. In fact, I believe even a licensed estate planning attorney cannot determine what you need without doing a proper attorney-client consultation.
Some firms provide estate planning legal services in addition to other services. It's kind of an easy "add-on". They may charge less who relatively less compared to other work they do because they are probably facilitating the form fill-out and/or are using paralegals or legal assistants to do most of the work.
Estate Planning attorneys, with the proper experience, knowledge, and skill can provide invaluable advice, service, and assistance. People are unique and their circumstances are unique too, even though most of us think we are normal. The work required to serve a unique person may indicate a unique cost.
This doesn’t mean the cheapest is the most inferior or the most expensive is the most superior.
Few law firms post their fee schedule or hourly rate online. It’s not because they are hiding or don’t want their competition to see. It’s because we don’t know what you need until we meet you, listen to you, answer your questions, know your goals and concerns, ask you some questions, and understand what your estate is and/or may consist of at the time of your death.
Estate Planning is putting in place a written plan with all the required documents to transfer your assets not only to those you want but also in the way you want. Additionally, do you just need a Last Will, Powers of Attorney, health care documents, a Trust, or multiple trusts? A consultation with an Estate Planning licensed attorney is the best way to know what you need.
For this reason, Palmer Estate Planning offers complimentary consultations. No obligation consultations give you an opportunity to learn sufficiently about us and us an opportunity to learn about you in order to accurately provide pricing for your unique estate planning needs.