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Estate Planning Process and Fees

Creating an estate planning checklist is a smart way to ensure your interests are covered during life and your stuff goes to your desired beneficiaries on deathWhat’s the process?

No two clients are alike. Nor are estate plans. At Hanley Law, we custom tailor each plan based upon a client’s unique needs and personal wishes. We’ve found that some clients like to begin with an initial face-to-face meeting while others prefer to start the process with a phone or zoom consultation. We are here to accommodate your schedule, needs and preferences. We can usually wrap up your plan in two meetings.

Initial Meeting

We advise the steps and estate planning documents at the initial meeting, as well as obtain the information needed to prepare the plan best suited for you. We discuss your objectives and answer any concerns. Once we’ve found a plan to suit your needs, we’ll quote you an all-inclusive price to create your estate plan.

You are under no obligation to pay anything for the initial face-to-face, phone or zoom meeting. We will enter into an attorney-client agreement at the end of the initial meeting, so you can be confident about the estate planning documents your getting and the fixed project price you’ll pay.

Prepare and Review Documents

After we gather the facts about your estate planning wishes, we prepare the estate plan and deliver it to you for review. We can mail or email these documents for your review, whichever is most convenient for you. Any changes you have will be incorporated and final documents are then prepared (at no additional cost).

“Sign-off” Meeting

The final step is signing the finished documents. We provide witnesses (for your will) and a Notary Public (for all the other documents). Once signed, we then process the documents, transferring any real property into your Living Trust to avoid probate. You’ll receive the original documents for your records at the sign off meeting, and we can keep hard copies and e-file copies for our records at no extra cost. Of course, if you ever have a question about your documents, we’re here to answer them.

What’s the Fee?

Estate planning is a process. The fees we charge are for taking you through the process of learning about the options available, deciding which of those options you wish to use, and then drafting the documents to accomplish your wishes.  

Fee Depends on Factors

The fee charged varies based upon a number of factors, including the amount of time spent with you on your behalf and the issues involved. Some of the factors, which may tend to increase the fee charged, are the existence of prior marriages, children from prior marriages, the complexity of wishes for distribution of assets, the use of trusts in the plan, disinheritance of children and the size and composition of your estate.

Again, at our initial meeting we will discuss the nature of your estate and your wishes for disposition of your assets after your death. We will discuss the tax impact of your desired plan of disposition, discuss alternative plans, and prepare the documents for carrying out your wishes. In some cases, we may need to review existing documents as part of this process.

Often, but not always, the issues which arise are more complicated in a larger estate. For example, an estate which will never exceed the amount which is subject to estate tax usually requires little estate tax planning. Trusts may be included into the plan to protect assets for minor children, or for young adults, or to assure that the wishes of the first decedent (in case of couple) are carried out, but not to minimize estate tax. A larger estate may involve discussion of, and planning for estate and generation-skipping taxes. We want to allow enough time to discuss these very important issues and options.

Sometimes, even the smallest estate can involve complications, which may increase the fee. As mentioned, factors such as second marriages, children from prior marriages, disinheritance of children or spouses, special needs planning for a person with disabilities, and an unusual asset mix are examples of situations which are more complex than usual. It is almost impossible to provide a “flat project fee” for these situations. We will need to discuss at our initial meeting.

In addition, the fees discussed here are only for basic estate planning documents. Other documents, such as irrevocable trusts, family limited partnerships, IRA conduit trusts, and charitable split interest trusts can be discussed separately.

Often, beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, including IRAs, are a critical elements of the estate plan, and can increase the complexity and the fee, regardless of the size of the estate.

Minimum fees are as follows:

Minimum fees will apply, with the final fee varying depending on whether there are factors that will be discussed with you that may increase the plan, like minor beneficiaries, special needs trusts, retirement accounts, or other situations that need to be accounted for. Minimum fee for the standard estate plan package is $2,000. for a single person and $3,000 for a married couple, which includes the following docs (married couple get 2 wills, 2 powers of attorney for finances and 2 healthcare directives as part of the married couple plan):

  1. Living Trust;
  2. Pour Over Will;
  3. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances;
  4. Advance Healthcare Directive
  5. Certified Abstract of Trust Agreement;
  6. General Assignment of Assets; and
  7. Trust Transfer Deed/pcor (we record deed with County Recorder on your behalf as part of plan).

However, only the most simple plan can be prepared for the minimum fee.  The typical fee range for a (a) single person is $2,250 – $2,500; and (b) married couple is $3,250. – $3,500. and depends on the complexity of the plan.  

Again, you are under no obligation to pay anything until we reach an agreement.

There is a recording cost of $50/deed (for primary residences) that needs be recorded with the County Recorder. Costs for any non-primary residence deed(s) are $125/deed.

We provide originals of all documents to you at the “sign-off” meeting. We will keep a hard copy and e-file copy of all your executed docs for our records.


The amount of time which will be involved in amending existing documents is almost impossible to predict.  Often, it is less expensive (and provides a better result) if we restate existing documents that to amend individual paragraphs.

Updating your documentation is often cheaper than the fees quoted above. Call for details.