What Is the Average Cost for Someone to Do an Estate Plan in California?

Estate planning can be rather stressful and upsetting for all of us. After all, it does involve us imagining the future of our family and the people we love without us in the picture. Difficult as it may be, this is something that needs to be done, especially if you have a lot of valuable assets or if there are complex inheritance situations.

Your peace of mind and your family’s future all depend on having a proper plan, and I’m not talking about a plan that you’ll draft in your mind and simply tell someone, in the hope that they’ll honor your wishes. You need to draft proper documents instead, and this page should tell you more on what estate planning actually entails.

An estate plan is a crucial instrument in everyone’s lives, aiming at helping you get all of your affairs in order and avoid causing future stress and hardships for your family once they enter the process of getting the assets that you’ve left them. In the wake of your death or incapacitation, your loved ones will already have a very hard time dealing with that, so you have to do everything in your power to at least make the inheritance issue easier. Drafting a comprehensive plan that clearly states which assets should go where will prevent additional family drama and confusion, as well as help your family avoid difficult and drawn-out probate court processes.

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Should You Do It Alone Or Hire A Lawyer?

The importance of estate planning is clear. What most people wonder, though, is whether they can do this alone, or hiring an attorney is a must. As every other legal proceeding, you have the right to represent yourself in this one as well, meaning that you can write your own will and plan your estate without anyone’s help. The question is if this is actually such a good idea, given that your family’s future is at stake. Taking advice from unqualified professionals online and using Internet tips to plan everything could easily lead to making mistakes and thus jeopardizing their future, while the whole purpose of the estate plan is to make it easier.

If your inheritance situation is extremely simple, and if your estate consists of straightforward assets, and allocating them won’t be difficult, then you could perhaps do this alone. For instance, if you only have a single child in line to receive the inheritance, the process will be pretty straightforward. That’s usually not the case, though, as there are much more family members involved, and possibly much more valuable assets that you want to go into the right hands, which is why planning things alone is ill-advised. There’s the danger of making procedural and clerical mistakes that could later render your entire plan invalid.

Given all that, hiring lawyers is always a much better move than doing this alone. If you’re planning on relying on those websites that offer templates, then you’re, once again, risking making mistakes. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, because every single individual has a different inheritance and estate situation that needs to be properly taken into account and dealt with by professionals. When you visit Seasons Law, P.C. or a similar firm, you’ll get a clearer understanding of just how many processes and documents are involved in the planning, which will make you understand that hiring professionals is the way to go. They will draft a plan in accordance with your specific situation, and they’ll answer any questions you have during the whole process.

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How Much Does It Cost In California?

How much will all of that cost in California, though? Working with lawyers will, obviously, amount to a higher total price than what you’d have to pay if you did this alone, but it’s clear already that this is a price worth paying. Every attorney in California will have his or her specific fees and billing policies, so the overall price will depend on the professionals you’ll hire. Some of those lawyers will charge a flat rate, while others will charge an hourly fee, and you, as the client, will have to decide which option works better for you. Whether you go for a flat fee or an hourly rate, though, the total amount won’t differ too much, because the flat fee will usually be calculated based on the time necessary to draft all the documents on your behalf.

Speaking of the documents, the number of those you’ll need will, naturally influence the total price as well. The last will and testament, i.e. a document stating your last wishes on how you want your assets to be distributed after your death, will cost around $700 in California. This document needs to be drafted for everyone and it basically represents the beginning of a proper estate plan. So, you don’t have to think about whether you need this one or not, because you definitely do.

An advance health care directive, also known as a “living will”, is the legal document that allows you to advocate for yourself regarding your end-of-life care. Remember that this applies only to the end-of-life care, so if you want someone to make other kinds of medical decisions for you at a certain point in the future, you’ll need to give them durable power of attorney for healthcare. The advance health care directive document will cost approximately $500 per hour in California, and the power of attorney, including the financial one, will be drafted at a similar fee. Here’s your estate planning checklist to follow: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/estate-planning/estate-planning 

Moving on, there’s also the revocable living trust, the trust restatement, the transfer deed, and some more documents you may need to have drafted on your behalf. Their total prices will, once again, depend on the lawyers you’ll hire, but you should expect to pay at least around $2000 for such documents. When you find a great lawyer, though, you’ll also get reasonable fees, so that’s what you should aim for.