Confronting our health and what might happen to us someday is not an easy task. Even though estate planning is emotionally challenging, it’s a necessary step to protect yourself. Not only that, without any plans, your loved ones might face unnecessary difficulties. Dealing with the assets alone can be a struggle. You wouldn’t want them worrying about making medical decisions on top of that. The cost of a living will is going to depend on how you create it and could depend on where you live. You can speak with a financial advisor to help you determine how a living will fits into your financial picture.
What is a Living Will?
A living will refers to a legal document that records your medical, long-term and end-of-life care choices. However, it only comes into play when you can no longer communicate your decisions to your doctors or loved ones.
Unfortunately, there are a variety of scenarios that may require a living will. For example, if you have a degenerative disease or sustain major brain trauma, you likely won’t be able to advocate for yourself. To prepare for that, individuals make a living will while still healthy and sound of mind. Some frequently mentioned directions people put in this document include ventilators, medication and resuscitation.
Factors that Impact Living Will Costs
Your estate attorney will take special care to customize your living will to fit your needs. Those specifications, however, and your circumstances can shift the price needed to make the document. Some of the factors that influence the overall cost include:
- Location: Attorneys that work in urban areas tend to cost more than those based in suburban or urban spaces.
- Professional Experience: Lawyers and law firms that specialize in estate planning will cost more.
- Directive Complexity: The larger and more complicated your living will, the more expensive it will be to complete.
How Much Does a Living Will Cost?
When researching which estate planning attorney to work with, you should know the basic payment system they will use. If you know ahead of time, you can prepare accordingly. Lawyers tend to use either one of two ways: flat fees or hourly billing. However, you also have the option of do-it-yourself (DIY) living wills.
Do-It-Yourself Living Wills
You might be considering ways to avoid any high, professional costs in the first place. If so, a DIY living will is a cost-effective method. You can search online or visit certain stores to get a basic, pre-made form. The only actual cost, then, would be the notarizing price, which you can expect to be only around $10 to $15. That is unless you want a more complicated pre-made form or will-making software. In that case, certain websites might begin to charge you, although it will still be a low cost compared to professional help. The software typically runs from $20 to $100.
However, you should also know that writing your own legal documents comes with its complications and some risks. Your state likely has rules regarding the document’s legitimacy that you may not know. Any mistakes you make hoping to save money may end up costing you more in the long run. Also, a basic will drafted by an attorney is comparable in price to the cost of higher-end software. So, you may be financially safer to choose professional guidance.
Flat-Fee Living Wills
Once you start working with an attorney, you’ll find that they typically have one of two payment structures. A flat flee works like how it sounds. Once you decide to work with an estate planner, they will ask for one “flat” payment. The cost of that payment will depend on the factors mentioned above: location, attorney experience and and the number and type of documents needed. You can expect a low range of $300, with the higher prices easily exceeding $1,000.
However, a flat fee can be beneficial despite how shocking that price tag might be. It demands less work on your attorney’s part since they won’t have to keep track of hours and can just focus on the living will’s assembly. Also, you get to relax once the process has started, knowing you’ve done your part.
Hourly Payment Structure Living Wills
An alternative to the flat fee is hourly billing. This format will also heavily depend on the circumstances. Again, lawyers in high-traffic areas will likely charge more. So, if you’re in the city, you’ll probably find hourly rates above $300. Outside that area, it’ll drop to around $150 an hour. Remember, a firm or lawyer’s experience and your living will’s specializations may also drive up those prices.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney
While the online world is a convenient one, it may not provide for all your needs. DIY legal documents often cost less than working with a professional, but that’s because they’re not customized. The form comes as is, and you simply fill it out to the best of your abilities.
Furthermore, the benefit of working with a person is exactly that. You can have a dialogue with your estate planning attorney, which is more direct than typing questions into a search engine. You can ask your attorney any questions you may have about a living will or other legal documents. Also, the document they may for you will cater to your needs.
Living wills are an important step for any individual looking into end-of-life medical and financial planning. The more vulnerable you are, the more essential they become too. If you think you might need to include a living will in your future, shop around for your best options to make one. If you have straightforward wishes, a DIY living will might be enough for you. In contrast, it may be worth speaking to a professional estate planning attorney if there are several complications. Either way, as long as you have a legal living will, you can be sure you and your family are cared for.
Estate Planning Tips
- A living will is only one piece of your full estate planning puzzle. It’s important to consult with a financial advisor to help you figure out the right estate plan and how it all fits together. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- A key part of estate planning is figuring out how much you will have to live on. That’s where a free, easy-to-use retirement calculator can be invaluable.Photo credit: ©iStock.com/GCShutter, ©iStock.com/designer491, ©iStock.com/zimmytws