Estate Planning 101

Estate planning costs vary: here's a full list of expenses

You don't always need a lawyer to make an estate plan. It usually costs a lot less if you don't. But if your plan is very complex, it's often best to get professional help. Here's what you might pay for an estate planning lawyer — plus all the other costs.
April 10, 2024

Need some help?

Snug partners with Marble Law, an online law firm built for your peace of mind. Marble lawyers have extensive experience in all matters of estate planning, including the important task of funding a trust.
Get started right away

Are you an executor or trustee?

Snug can help you get organized by providing one place to store and analyze Wills, Trusts, and other essential documents. You can inventory finances, personal property, digital assets, insurance, and more.
Get started for free

Want to get organized?

Snug can help you organize all of life's details by providing one place to store and analyze Wills, Trusts, and other essential documents. You can inventory finances, personal property, digital assets, insurance, and more.
Get started for free

Want to offer estate planning?

Snug is a complete estate planning solution built for Financial Advisors who want to save time and offer their clients more. Whether you have an UHNW client who needs their documents analyzed or a mass affluent client getting their first Trust, we can help.
Get started for free

Need a Will or Trust?

Snug makes it easy to create a Will or Trust in under 20 minutes. Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives are included for free with any Will or Trust, as is a year of free updates.
Get started for free

Need a Will or Trust?

Snug makes it easy to create a Will or Trust in under 20 minutes. Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives are included for free with any Will or Trust, as is a year of free updates.
Get started for free

Need a Will or Trust?

Snug makes it easy to create a Will or Trust in under 20 minutes. Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives are included for free with any Will or Trust, as is a year of free updates.
Get started for free

Estate planning can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on how complex your estate is and what services you need from legal experts.

Initial consultation costs: from $100

For the first meeting with a lawyer, you might not have to pay anything. Lots of attorneys offer a free consultation to see if you’re a good fit. It depends on where the lawyer works and their level of expertise.

On the other hand, some lawyers may charge you for the initial consultation. This could cost anywhere from $100 to $800. It varies based on how well-known the lawyer is and how complex your situation is.

If you do pay, the lawyer might bill you by the hour for the consultation. Or, they might have a fixed fee just for this first meeting. Some lawyers will apply the consultation fee towards your future bills if you decide to hire them.

It's a good idea to talk to several lawyers before deciding. You should compare how much they charge for an initial consultation and how well you communicate with them. 

Costs of estate plan drafting: around $250 up $5,000+

Creating an estate plan involves making documents. These documents tell others how to handle your assets when you're gone. The cost to make these varies a lot.


A will says who gets what after you pass away. A simple will costs a few hundred dollars. If your situation is complex, it could cost more, even thousands.


Trusts are usually more expensive than wills. They start at $1,000 to $3,000. For complex trusts, the price could be higher.

Powers of attorney and healthcare directives

Powers of attorney and healthcare directives (also known as living wills) let someone make decisions for you if you can't. They cost $100 to $500 to make (but they’re free with Snug 👋).

Full estate plans

A full plan includes a will, trusts, and more. This can cost $2,000 to $5,000 or higher.

What changes the cost?

  1. The lawyer's skill. More experienced lawyers cost more.
  2. How complex your estate is. More assets or complex instructions raise the cost.
  3. Where you live. Prices can be higher in big cities and higher-cost-of-living states.

Document review costs: $100 to $1,000+

Updating your estate plan is important. Life changes like marriage or having a baby mean your plan needs to change too. This keeps your plan working right for you.

If you just need to update a name or a small detail, it might cost $100 to $500. This is because the changes are simple.

For big changes, like redoing your plan because of new laws or big life events, it could cost as much as making the original plan. This is because there's more work to do.

You should check your estate plan every three to five years. Or check it when something big changes in your life. Laws can change too, so your plan might need updates to match.

Using the same lawyer who made your plan can save some money. They know your plan already. But getting a new lawyer to look can be good too. They might see things differently.

Creating individual documents: can $100 for simple documents, $1,000+ for complex trusts

Sometimes, you might only need to prepare or update a single document in your estate plan. This could be a will, a trust, a power of attorney, or a healthcare directive. Each document has its own cost, depending on what it is and how complex your needs are.

Creating a will is usually less expensive than setting up a trust. A will might cost a few hundred dollars, while a trust can start at $1,000 or more. The price increases with the complexity of your assets and wishes.

Powers of attorney and healthcare directives are generally less costly to prepare, often ranging from $100 to $500. These documents are simpler but play a crucial role in your estate plan.

The final cost depends on your situation and the lawyer's rates. More complex needs and experienced lawyers typically mean higher costs. Also, if you're updating a document rather than creating a new one, the cost might be lower.

Trust administration: depends on the value of the trust’s assets

Setup costs

At the start, you need a lawyer to list everything the trust owns and tell everyone involved. They might charge $200 to $500 for each hour of work or take 1% to 2% of what the trust is worth. The cost depends on how complicated the trust is.

Taxes and accounting fees

Trusts have to pay taxes on the money they earn. They might also need to pay other taxes. Professionals who help with taxes and money management can charge a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Distribution to beneficiaries

When it's time to give the trust's assets to the beneficiaries (the people named in it), the costs can vary. If things need to be sold or titles changed, it might cost more. 

When there are disagreements

If people dispute the trust, the costs can go up a lot. Fighting out disagreements in court or through lawyers can use up a lot of the trust's money.

Maintaining a trust: low, but depends on the value of the trust’s assets

A trust needs regular care to keep working as it should. This includes some ongoing costs.

Running costs

Trustees, who take care of the trust, get paid. They might get a set fee every year or a part of the trust's value, usually 0.5% to 1.5%.

Investment fees

If the trust makes money through investments, there are fees for that. These are usually 0.25% to 1% of the money being managed.

Legal and accounting help

The trust needs to keep up with laws and keep its books in order. This means paying for legal and accounting help every year, which can cost $2,000 to $5,000.

Probate: can be $10,000+

Probate is the legal process of making sure a will is valid and getting the court’s permission to distribute the assets in the estate. It can get expensive.

Costs can include:

Court fees

Court fees change based on where you are and how much the estate is worth. For a small estate in California, starting fees are about $435. Bigger estates pay more, sometimes thousands.

Executor fees

The executor runs the estate through probate. They get paid too, often a part of the estate's value. For example, they might get 4% on the first $100,000. The exact amount depends on state rules.

Lawyer's fees

Lawyers help a lot in probate and charge quite a bit. Some states have set fees, using a percentage of the value of the estate. Otherwise, your lawyer might charge by the hour.

Lawyers do things like:

  • File paperwork.
  • Advise the executor.
  • List and value what the estate owns.
  • Pay off any debts.
  • Give out what's left to the right people.
  • Handle any fights over the will.

Other costs

There's more to pay for, like valuing the estate's stuff and selling properties. These can cost from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Total cost of probate

Probate can eat up 3% to 7% of what the estate is worth. On a $500,000 estate, that's $15,000 to $35,000 gone in probate costs.

Hourly legal advice costs for estate planning: typically $200+ per hour

When planning your estate, you might need to talk to a lawyer for advice. Lawyers charge by the hour for this help. The cost can vary a lot, depending on where they work and how experienced they are. Typically, they charge between $200 and $400 an hour. But in big cities or for very experienced lawyers, the rate could be higher.

What you get

For their hourly fee, lawyers give advice on making your will, setting up and funding trusts, and other estate planning needs. They can help you understand laws, figure out the best plan for your assets, and advise you on reducing taxes.

Flat fee services: usually $1,000+

Some lawyers offer flat fee services for estate planning. This approach means paying a set price for certain services, making costs clear from the start.

Flat fee packages might include drafting a will, setting up trusts, and other planning needs. What you get depends on the lawyer's offer.

Prices for these services can vary, usually ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. The cost is influenced by the services included and the lawyer's location.

With flat fees, you know the cost upfront, which helps with budgeting. It's a straightforward way to pay for legal help.

However, flat fees might not cover everything. If your estate planning needs change or become more complex, you could end up paying extra. Also, since the fee is set, a lawyer might not spend as much time on your case as they would if paid hourly.

Court fees: can be less than $1,000

When dealing with estate planning, you might face court fees. These are charges by the court for various parts of the estate planning and probate process.

Court fees can come up during probate, when setting up guardianships, or making changes to estate documents in court. They're part of the cost of making sure everything is legal and official.

The cost varies widely depending on where you are and what you're doing. For probate, fees can start at a few hundred dollars and go up based on the estate's value. In some places, filing a petition for probate might cost around $435, with additional charges for larger estates.

These fees cover the cost of the court's time and services. They pay for things like filing documents, court hearings, and the legal process of transferring assets.

Notary fees: often less than $100

Notaries verify your identity and witness signatures, making documents legally valid.

You might need a notary for important estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Their stamp proves your documents are signed in front of an official witness.

Notary fees are usually low, and they’re often set by state laws. They might range from $2 to $20 per signature. Some states have a maximum fee notaries can charge, keeping costs predictable.

Paying for a notary ensures your documents are legally sound. This small step can prevent big problems later by confirming that all signatures on your estate planning documents are genuine.

Changing your estate plan: $100 to $1,000+

Life changes can mean it's time to look at your estate plan again. Think about:

Marriage or divorce: Big changes in your marriage can affect how you want your things handled.

Birth or adoption of a child: Adding a family member might mean you want to include them in your plan.

Death of a beneficiary or executor: If someone in your plan passes away, you'll need to make changes.

Changes in assets: Getting or losing lots of money can change how you want to split up your things.

Moving to another state: Different states have different rules that can affect your plan.

Changes in relationships: New or different relationships might make you rethink your plans.

Costs involved

Changing your estate plan can involve fees.

Legal fees: You'll need to talk to your estate planning lawyer, if you have one. Costs can change based on how big the changes are. Small changes might cost a few hundred dollars. Big changes might be like making the whole plan again, which could be $1,000 to thousands.

Notary and filing fees: Any new papers or changes need to be notarized and maybe filed with courts. This can cost extra.

Estate planning costs by state