I get asked this question a lot. And if people don’t ask, I know that they want to ask. So let’s get the cat out of the bag. I will outline the ranges of fees you can expect to see out there so that you know how much estate planning costs. I’ll also mention where my fees fall within those ranges. I’ll do my best to avoid the attorney’s favorite answer to any question – “It depends,” even though it often does depend on various factors.
Types of Estate Planning Fees – Flat Fee or Hourly?
The most common ways you’ll expect to be billed for estate planning costs will be a Flat Fee or Hourly. You may also see a combination of the two. It’s less common, but you may also see subscription type fees, for example, you may pay an annual fee which will include ongoing updates etc. to your plan within the scope of your subscription. The advantage of flat fees are that you know what you’re paying up front. Make sure that you understand what is included in the fees you are quoted. For example, does the flat fee estate planning quote include assistance retitling assets into your trust (funding your trust) such as preparing and recording deeds to real estate? Or will this be an additional fee and if so, how much.
Basic Foundational Estate Planning (Will and Revocable Living Trust etc.) – $500 – $5,000+
This is the estate planning everyone needs, whether you have modest wealth or you’re a multi-millionaire. It should include a Pour-over Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive (e.g. Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will), and a Revocable Living Trust. This ranges from do it yourself options where you fill out forms online and print your documents at home to sitting with an experienced attorney who spends time with you to specifically tailor a plan to your unique needs. In my experience, the lower the fee for the plan, the less customization and attention you receive. Currently my fee for a foundational estate plan is around $2,500 – $3,000+ and includes customized documents and assistance funding the trust. Is it worth it? Your peace of mind is key. Foundational estate planning done right will avoid probate, provide clear procedures for inheritance, and can protect assets for your heirs.
Asset Protection Trusts – $3,500 – $50,000+
Okay, I realize that this is a HUGE range for expected fees for an asset protection trust. Let me clarify. Asset protection trusts come in 2 main flavors, Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPTs) and Foreign Asset Protection Trusts (FAPTs or Offshore Trusts). Domestic asset protection trusts are far less expensive to setup and maintain than offshore asset protection trusts. In fact, you’ll likely spend the same amount annually (or more) in annual maintenance and compliance fees for offshore asset protection trust as you will to setup a domestic asset protection trust. Offshore trusts are very expensive and only make sense in limited circumstances. You can expect to pay $20,000+ for an offshore trust plus annual compliance fees. Note that I don’t do any offshore planning personally, but there are some on my team who do.
Domestic asset protection trusts are very popular and work very well for for many people. Fees for domestic asset protection trusts are commonly between $3,500 – $10,000. Currently my fee for a domestic asset protection trust is around $5,000. Is it worth it? You’re peace of mind is worth quite a bit. And yes, the trust does in fact protect assets, which can protect hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions.
Advanced Estate Tax Planning – $10,000 – $100,000
Here we go again. Sorry about the HUGE fee range. This range depends on what advanced estate planning is being implemented. And I realize I used the dreaded “it depends” lawyer speak. When we’re working with high or ultra high net worth clients, we have many options for implementing sophisticated planning strategies. It is very common for high net worth clients to gift/sell assets to an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (aka IDGT or Spousal Lifetime Access Trust SLAT). Fees for implementing a gift/sale to an IDGT often range between $10,000 to $20,000. High net worth clients often require multiple strategies and entities as part of their planning which is why the fee range can reach much higher amounts. My fees for this strategy are usually around $10,000 to $15,000. Is it worth it? Again, your peace of mind is a key component. Also, ensuring tax efficiency and inheritance planning are very important. Clients can save millions of dollars with proper planning.
Alright folks, we see that different types of estate planning tools have varying fees. Hopefully you now know more about how much estate planning costs. There are more planning tools that are not specifically listed (setting up business entities, charitable trusts, etc.). Now you have an idea of fee ranges which I hope will help you make decisions for your estate planning. Is it worth it? That’s up to you, and is somewhat subjective. Like many products and services, it may often be true that you get what you pay for. But we know that’s not always the case. Do your homework. Make sure that you’re getting a plan prepared by someone who follows through with it so that it achieves what it is intended to achieve. You’re money is important and you should feel confident that you’re spending it wisely.