How much should estate planning cost?
March 28, 2013 10:49 AM   Subscribe

What would you expect to pay a lawyer for a suite of estate planning/healthcare documents that are more or less standard forms (i.e., no complicated trusts, just everything going to the other spouse)? I'm in Boston, but data points from comparably priced areas are welcome. Also, are there documents I'm forgetting in the list inside?

My wife and I are looking to execute simple wills that should effectively be LegalZoom-level complexity, but we will have a lawyer work on them for us. We'll also need durable powers of attorney, healthcare proxies/living will/advanced medical directive etc. (We're in MA, but I'm not sure what legal mechanisms we'll need in this jurisdiction.) Of course, our lawyer will be able to advise us, but I'd like to go in with an idea of all the documents I'll want.

What should we expect to pay for the entire suite of documents? We do not expect (or want) complicated documents--all assets will go to the other spouse or a TBD contingent beneficiary (either individual or charity), no kids, no house, spouse will have the (broadly defined) healthcare proxy rights, etc. We definitely still have blanks to fill in, but we are not looking to set up GRATs or QTIPs or do fancy planning. We are well, well, below the estate tax threshold.

For the record, I know you are not my attorney and any responses you give are not legal/tax/financial advice. IAAL, and will engage a lawyer for our needs.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Law & Government (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I looked into this in the immediate Boston area as well.

I think I was quoted anywhere from a flat fee of $1,000 and on upward. But nothing less.

And then it depended if they did a flat fee for the entire package or if they did hourly billing.

I know someone who works in Winchester in this field, so I am happy to pass along a specific recommendation through MeMail if you like. It is the office we would use when we can finally afford estate planning.....
posted by zizzle at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did some research into this last fall and still haven't gotten around to following up with anyone, but I was quoted a range of fees and structures from $500 for an initial 2-hour consultation plus an additional unknown fee for anything beyond that to a flat $900 for will, health care proxy, and power of attorney to $1600 for the previous three plus a revocable trust. If you'd like the names of the lawyers I contacted (mostly in Boston proper, some with suburban offices as well), send a MeMail. This was all quoted for one individual, I don't know how it scales for a couple.
posted by nonane at 11:06 AM on March 28, 2013

estate planning/healthcare documents that are more or less standard forms

Keep in mind that you are not just paying for the documents, you are also paying for the expertise of the attorney who will meet with you, explain the documents to you, ensure that the boilerplate documents are appropriate and sufficient for your needs, etc.
posted by alms at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2013

My Dad's firm does estate planning in Los Angeles, which I think would have comparable prices. Depending on the complexity of the estate, the most basic package he offers is a flat rate of $800-1200, which is pretty standard for our market.

This package would include:
1) Healthcare directives for you and your spouse
2) Power of attorneys for you and your spouse
3) A simple family trust
4) Pour-over wills for your and your spouse

You would be provided a lengthy questionaire and there'd be a 1-2 hour meeting to discuss the questionaire after you filled it out.

For the basic package rates the family trust would not include any special provisions, i.e. it would cost more if you needed a special needs trust, a bypass trust, a Generation-Skipping Trust, if one or both of you are not a US citizen, or if you have substantial international assests, etc.
posted by Arbac at 12:58 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally forgot, this doesn't apply to you since you don't own real property, but I'll mention it for other people reading the answers that might find it useful.

Ask the attorney if they'll take care of drafting and recording any trust transfer deeds for you. In order for a trust to be effective, it must be properly funded. I've seen some people get the basic trust package from some cheaper places, and the trusts were never properly funded, because the lawyer didn't include that function in their cheap package. So even though the clients were told they needed to transfer the assets to the trust, they never did. Needless to say, this can be problematic.

So check if funding the trust is included in the cheap package! For my Dad's firm, a maximum of 4 trust transfer deeds, recorded in the proper recorders office, are included in the base price (this is what makes it a ranges from 800-1200), but transfering bank accounts, brokerage accounts, cars titles, or other property or financial instruments is not included in the price. He gives an instruction sheet that tells the clients how to put other items in the trust and they're expected to transfer title to the trust themselves.
posted by Arbac at 1:06 PM on March 28, 2013

Where I practice, you're looking at around $1000 for the documents you want. Part of that is the initial consultation. The will itself (no other documents) will typically cost around $500. Everything else is a piece of cake and shouldn't take up more than a couple more hours of billable time. Note: I'm in the Kansas City area.
posted by Dignan at 5:13 PM on March 28, 2013

Roughly, if a lawyer's charge for a suite of planning documents for a single person is x, the charge for a couple should be about 1.5x.

The x varies widely, and tends to be larger in the larger cities.
posted by megatherium at 7:11 PM on March 28, 2013

I charge $1000 for this in NYC.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:25 PM on March 28, 2013

I just had this done in Vermont and it was $900, flat fee, all documents.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 AM on March 29, 2013

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