Save Money on a Legal Will

Save Money on Your Legal Will

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. LegalZoomAfter 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.
  4. Rocket LawyerRocket 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!)
  5. 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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16 Comments

  1. WHOA… we just did all three of those same documents (and yes, we should have done them YEARS ago – so for those of you that don’t have them – ACT!) We paid $425 total out of pocket this February! This is definitely something to shop around. We also have a blended family and multiple rental properties, etc. so it was not just a standard will. Never thought about checking with the union about benefits though – moot point now that they are done and I have left full-time work!

    • MaggieBanks

      Well done! We wouldn’t have thought about the union either until our lawyer friend mentioned it!

  2. 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. We didn’t use it (we used LegalZoom) but it would have been more comprehensive to go with the credit union.

    • MaggieBanks

      That sounds amazing! I had no idea they offered such services! I’m adding it to the list!

  3. I know that I should have a will, but right now it seems a bit pointless for my situation. We have almost no real assets outside of our household items and some piddly retirement accounts, and a net worth of something like -$50,000. It’d sort of be like, “Who wants to pay our debt for us when we die?” We do have a house, but it’s a bit of a lemon, and we’ve been trying to sell it for years anyways but no one will buy it. At this point, it’s more of a liability than an asset. 🙁

    • MaggieBanks

      Maybe assigning heirs is less important right now, but you definitely want to make sure you have your health directives so people know what you want when that time comes!

  4. Not really necessary in my situation yet, but I do make sure all my beneficiaries are updated. Someday this will be relevant fore me, so thanks for the tips!

    • MaggieBanks

      Again, doing the health stuff is important. You want to be the one to make those decisions rather than your poor family or the doctor who won’t know what you really want.

  5. Before we had wills we sent emails to my brother and Mr G’s sister saying we wanted everything to go to our 5 nieces and nephews. Now we have all the documentation in place. We didn’t try to do it the cheapest way because it’s a bit complicated with 5 beneficiaries who are not your children.

    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. http://www.agingwithdignity.org.

    • MaggieBanks

      I did not know about that one either! I’m adding it to the list!

  6. High five for getting your estate docs done! 🙂 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. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      This is the exact question I asked my lawyer friend: “Can’t I just Google ‘will template'”! He basically said, yes, but know what your state requires. In the end, we got too scared to actually do it and I was afraid to write it here in case some idiot did it without research and sued me. 🙂 But I plan to add it to the list with a disclaimer!

  7. TheMoneyMine

    For 200$, I think you got a good deal. The advice on checking with the company is good, we have some legal services as part of some 401k – related benefits and I think it does cover that. I’ll have to check!
    I don’t know what makes people act on this, but for me it’s definitely having kids and trying to protect their future the way we want, not the way a court would want.

    • MaggieBanks

      We did get a good deal. Let us know if you end up finding a deal through work as well. I’m interested to hear what other companies offer.

  8. Ngh, I am now totally embarrassed by how much money we spent on having a local lawyer draft ours. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did but we needed (I wanted) both a will and a trust given our dependent child and fairly significant or to-be-significant assets. Since it’s a moot point, I’m not going to second guess whether it was truly that important to use a local lawyer. Sigh.

    • MaggieBanks

      Meh. Water under the bridge. It’s done and you can pat yourself on the back for getting it done (that puts you way ahead of most)! YOU DID IT! Congrats!

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