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How Much Does It Cost to Make a Will?


Creating a last will and testament as part of your estate plan could cost anywhere from nothing to several thousand dollars. The actual price will vary depending on the method you use to create a will. Doing it yourself is least expensive, and can involve no cost at all. Hiring an estate attorney to do the work is the most expensive method. This can run up a bill of $10,000 or more. In between are options that will cost you a few hundred dollars or so. To help you decide your estate planning needs, consider talking with a financial advisor.

Will Basics

A will is a legal document that handles some central tasks of an estate plan. These include naming an executor, describing the assets in the estate, identifying beneficiaries that will get property and providing for any minor children by appointing guardians to oversee their care.

Dying without a will, known as dying intestate, can cause sizable problems. For one thing, it is likely to increase the cost and time required to settle your estate, delaying and reducing the support you want for beneficiaries. It also means your estate will be distributed according to your state’s inheritance laws rather than according to your wishes.

Unmarried romantic partners, for instance, are entitled to nothing under every state’s intestacy laws. Yet a 2023 survey from the Yale Law School found that people on average want a live-in nonmarital partner to get about half their assets. This is one example of how having a valid will can make a difference in how effectively your wishes are carried out after you are gone.

Despite their value, Gallup polls consistently find that most people don’t have wills. Older, more educated and more affluent people are more likely than others to have wills, but it’s still far from universal.

Discomfort with facing mortality could explain why many people don’t have wills. Cost is likely another. However, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to create a will that will do the estate planning work you need.

Will Costs

A senior couple meeting with an estate planning attorney to go over their will.

Before considering cost, realize that all wills are not created equal. State laws govern wills and they can vary in important ways. For example, in some states a will is not valid unless multiple witnesses attest to you signing it. There may be other much less intuitive requirements that, if not followed to the letter, could invalidate your will. So no matter what you pay, make sure your will is valid in your state. Findlaw maintains a directory of laws on wills for each state. Some of this information may be dated, however, so it’s a good idea to check your state’s legal code.

With those caveats in mind, here are some options for making a will along with their typical costs:

Oral Will

The easiest way to create a will is simply to tell someone orally what you want to happen with your estate. It also has the benefit of being free of any monetary cost. The problem with oral wills, also called nuncupative wills or deathbed wills, is that they are not valid in most states.


Another no-cost way is to write your will starting with a blank sheet of paper. If you do this entirely in your own handwriting, it’s considered a holographic will. These wills are not recognized as valid in some states, but most will accept them as long as they meet other legal requirements.

Will Template

A will template is a fill-in-the-blank form with spaces for your name, the date, a list of assets and beneficiaries and other information. An internet search will turn up innumerable sources for electronic will templates for costs varying from nothing to a few dollars. Some claim to be specific to your state. A better source could be one of the many state supreme court websites with official templates that conform to state laws and are available to download for free. You can also purchase hard copies of will templates as kits for about $15 from office supply stores.

Online Will-Making Tools

A sizable number of websites offer online tools to guide you through making a will. This method may be easier than using a template while also allowing for customization. Some tools are free to use, while others can charge roughly $100.

Will-Making Software

Instead of using an online tool, you can buy will-creation software to install on your own computer. Costs for using this approach are similar to the paid options for online will-building, which could be around $100.

Estate Planning Attorney

Hiring an attorney increases odds of ending up with a legally valid will and may be the best way to go if you have a large estate or complicated distributions involving, for instance, children from multiple marriages. However, it’s also the costliest option.

Attorneys common charge either a flat fee or by the hour for creating a will. A flat fee is generally less. You could pay as little as $150 for a simple will drafted by an attorney charging a flat fee. Hourly charges can range from $100 to $500 an hour for an especially experienced estate attorney. Hourly charges for a complicated will could add up to $5,000 or even $10,000.

Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation. This can help you evaluate whether or not you need the attorney’s help. You can also get an estimate that should lay out details of what you’ll get and what you’ll pay.

If you feel you need an attorney but can’t pay, consider your local legal aid society or state bar association. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the Legal Services Corporation maintain online directories of organizations that offer discounted or pro bono legal help. You may have to qualify as financially needy to get this assistance.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor meeting with a senior couple to help them create an estate plan.

You can spend a lot for a will, but simple wills can be created for free. Oral, hand-written and template-based wills can be made without any cost. Some online will-creating tools cost nothing while others can charge roughly $100. Will-making software, which could also cost around $100, is another way to harness technology for the task. Hiring an attorney, alternatively, can cost as little as a flat $150, although paying hourly to make a complicated will could run you $10,000 or even more. Legal aid societies may be able to give you human guidance for much less, or even nothing if you qualify.

Estate Planning Tips

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about your estate planning options. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • SmartAsset’s estate planning guides provide free advice and information on a wide variety of estate planning concerns.

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