Estate planning fees that are paid to attorneys, officials and service providers can fall into four categories. The most basic type of fees are for document preparation. People with significant assets will likely pay consultation fees for planning and advice. Certain types of documents may involve filing or transfer fees or other payments to officials to record documents or rearrange assets. Finally, in some cases, ongoing fees are paid to service providers to handle matters that are arranged as part of the estate planning process.
People who seek estate planning help from an attorney are either individuals, couples or part of a family; the more people involved in the process and whose interests must be considered, the higher the fees for services. Individuals tend to incur the least amount of estate planning fees. Often, individuals only need document preparation services from an attorney, such as the preparation of a basic will, financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney with living will provisions. In many instances, law firms set a flat fee for document preparation services that includes a basic consultation and drafting the paperwork.
Married couples or partners and families with young children tend to need more than basic document preparation. Their estate planning fees tend to include charges for consultation, advice and planning. This is often necessary because the attorney must evaluate the specific circumstances of each client to determine the best way to carry out the client's wishes. The involvement of beneficiaries who need to be properly provided for after death makes private consultation necessary to ensure all issues are covered.
Clients with assets that exceed the statutory limits for the assessment of government estate taxes will also incur estate planning fees for document preparation and consultation, advice and planning. These types of clients will likely also generate a third category of estate planning fees for filings, title transfers and registrations. Wealthy clients often want to avoid probate by disposing of assets during the client's lifetime by using trusts and certain types of business entities. In this case, the attorney would be tasked with preparing trust instruments, transferring assets and registering entities, and the client would pay for the fees involved.
Estate planning can involve the creation of entities, such as trusts, that require ongoing involvement by a third party. For example, a person who sets up an irrevocable trust for his children will need to designate a trustee. People sometimes hire professional trustees to manage the trust or set up the trust through a bank that manages the money and handles distributions based on the trustee's instructions. Third parties charge a fee for this type of ongoing service that is considered part of the estate planning process.