Mr. T and I finished the whole estate-planning process just before leaving on our grand adventure (follow us on Twitter for trip updates!). On Monday, we outlined considerations for making a will. Today we’re going to talk about how to save money on making one. This is expensive stuff we’re talking about! And today we’re going to cover how to save money on a legal will. I’m not an attorney, so obviously don’t take this as legal advice. This is just my observations based on my experiences and research on the matter. Mr. T and I used a lawyer to draft up our legal wills, powers of attorney, and advanced health directives (a total of 6 documents). The legal fees? $1,895! Yikes! That’s more than it cost for all of our plane tickets for the trip we’re on! Here are 5 ways to do it for less:
- Check Your Employer’s Legal Services: Employers and unions often have legal services as one of the employee benefits. Luckily, Mr. T works for an employer that does. We paid a $200 deductible and the rest of the legal fees were covered by his employer! Some companies will cover estate planning while others will cover the costs for a much broader assortment of legal services. It’s worth checking out!
- Look for Free Estate Planning Events: Lawyers will often volunteer their time to one-time workshops or events that allow you create a basic will, etc, for free. If there are any of these happening in your area, this is an awesome choice because it’s free! Jackpot if you can get your entire estate planning done in a day for free!
- LegalZoom: After drafting our documents in back and forth emails and two meetings with a lawyer, I sort of wished I just sat down and did it online. Our documents are all very basic and using an online form would have been sufficient. Another pro is year-long access to a lawyer to make sure things are all legal for your specific state and to make sure your specific situation is handled as it should be. The downside to this service is that they charge a per-document or per-bundle fee and our estate planning would have run us a total of $300-600.
- Rocket Lawyer: Rocket Lawyer also gives you access to documents and lawyers to make sure your situation in your state are handled appropriately, but everything is bundled by monthly payment. As someone looking to save money, I love the idea of planning one month to do everything and only paying once! Monthly memberships start at $40 and cover as many documents as you want. You want to plan your entire estate, set up an LLC, and set up a landscaping contract for a random side hustle? You would probably want to get the larger monthly membership that costs $50, but all of that would only cost you $50! At the end of that first month, you can cancel your membership! If you want to update your will, you just sign up again for another month, update everything, and cancel again! Our estate planning could have cost us $150 less than we paid if we went with Rocket Lawyer. (ALSO, if you can get everything done in the FREE seven day trial period, everything would be FREE!)
- Use a Napkin: People always say writing your will on a napkin is better than not having one at all. In some states, a holographic will (the legal term for handwritten wills) are legal. In some states, these are only legal if they are handwritten, signed, and witnessed. My opinion (which isn’t a legal one!) is that something is better than nothing, but you should probably try to get a real, legal will.
Since publishing this post, the readers have added a few other great ideas. Here’s what they say:
- Emily over at The Jane and John Doe Guide to Money & Investing commented: “If you are a member of a credit union, you can check out their services. Ours offers estate planning for couples at $375, which includes a will (including trust provisions), durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney and living will.”
- Mrs. Groovy over at Freedom is Groovy had this to add: Your readers should also be aware of a document called “Five Wishes” that is considered valid and legal in many states. It’s $5 and is especially useful if you have aging parents.
- Our Next Life mirrored my own, unwritten thoughts by saying: A free option that people can consider, too, is just to Google ‘will template.’ If your estate is uncomplicated by any trusts, then a free will template is probably all you need. You fill it in, sign it, get witnesses to sign, and then you’re probably good to go. In our case, we used the NOLO products, which are in the price range of the Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer stuff, so not expensive. But the free templates out there are pretty much exactly the same as what we paid ~$50 for. 🙂”
Mr. T and I paid $200 for our legal services, which saved us nearly $1700 over what was charged! After seeing how basic all the documents ended up being and what a hassle it was to schedule and draft it with a lawyer, I would have chosen Rocket Lawyer (there were no free estate planning workshops in Anchorage before our trip!). Again, I’m no lawyer, so make the choice that makes the most sense for you, but I feel like we were pressured, unnecessarily, into using a local lawyer when our estate planning could have easily been done online for less time, hassle, and money. But, in the end, we have the legal documents, so it’s all water under the bridge.
Act now and get your affairs in order. Mr. T and I should have done this years ago! Unexpected deaths are, by definition, unexpected. If a lack of time is holding you up, schedule it. Put a time in your calendar to sit down and make these decisions. If the cost is what is causing the delay, $40 is well worth it!
Do you have a will? An advanced directive? A living will or power of attorney? If not, what would motivate you to ACT?
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