According to a market survey conducted in 2016 by Southwest Portland Law Group, LLC, the average cost of a Last Will and Testament, prepared by an attorney in Oregon, is between $350 and $1,500. Most people are understandably dissatisfied by this answer. The question of price in estate planning can be very frustrating for both attorneys and clients. From the client’s perspective, it seems that lawyers keep the process mysterious in order to inflate prices. From the attorney’s perspective, this simple question is unfair. As legal counselors, we aren’t selling a one-size-fits-all product. Our job is to listen to our clients, determine their needs, and then design a plan that fits those needs. A Will is not a complete estate plan. As an attorney, I wouldn’t feel right simply drafting a Will, charging my client $350, and sending them on their way. Generally, an estate plan should consist of at least a Will, an Advance Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney. So for me, the answer to this simple question is “$350, but that’s probably not what you need.” Each of the estate plan documents is a critically important part of a well drafted estate plan. Each has its own purpose. Generally speaking, that purpose is to make life easier for you while you are alive and easier for your loved ones upon your incapacity or death.
Last Will and Testament
Your Will can contain your last wishes, name your executor and their compensation, give directions on distribution of your property, appoint guardians for your children, and even establish a trust for your minor children, should you pass away before they reach adulthood. A Will alone, however, will not allow anyone to handle your finances or make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Similarly, you can’t give directions to your healthcare providers regarding life support, tube feeding, or other end-of-life care issues in your Will. A basic estate plan will contain the documents required to address these issues.
In Oregon, an Advance Directive is a form created by the Oregon Legislature to combine what we used to refer to as a Living Will, and a Healthcare Power of Attorney. Though the form is now combined, it still contains the equivalent of a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney. The Living Will portion of the form allows you to make your wishes known. If you become incapacitated to the point that you are unable to make healthcare decisions, the Living Will portion of the Advance Directive will give instructions to your healthcare providers about your desires with regard to tube feeding, life support, and other medical interventions. Generally, you are able to elect whether you do not want any intervention, you want intervention as your physician recommends, or you want intervention at all costs. The second part of the Advance Directive deals with the healthcare power of attorney. In this section, you are able to appoint someone to be your agent for healthcare decisions, should you become incapacitated. Your agent, or “attorney-in-fact,” receives the authority to make only healthcare decisions on your behalf, but is not your agent for financial purposes.
Durable Power of Attorney
Unlike the Advance Directive, the Durable Power of Attorney allows the principal (grantor of the power) to appoint an agent to act on behalf of the principal in financial matters. A Durable Power of Attorney can be crafted to include very limited or very broad powers. An agent may be authorized to handle banking, open and close accounts, buy and sell property, settle disputes, and almost anything else the principal can do. The Durable Power of Attorney may not be used to change the principal’s estate plan.
A Durable Power of Attorney can go into effect immediately upon signing and acceptance by the agent, or you can set up a “springing” Durable Power of Attorney, which will only go in to effect upon some contingency. Usually that contingency is the incapacity of the principal.
So How Much Does an Estate Plan Cost?
At Southwest Portland Law Group, LLC, basic individual estate plans start at $600. The basic estate plan includes the initial interview, the drafting of a Will, Advance Directive, and Durable Power of Attorney, and the signing, which requires two witnesses and a notary (we provide witnesses and notary). In addition to your documents, we will also spend time counseling you on proper titling of assets, as well as beneficiary designations and TOD/POD designations for your accounts. In the end, you will receive a binder with a letter from your attorney explaining all of the documents and how to use them, as well as the original documents for you to keep. If there are any custom provisions, or other unusual circumstances, the cost increases. For couples, we offer a discounted price of $1,000 for both plans. Each person must have their own plan. It is not possible to do a joint Will, POA, or Advance Directive. There are efficiencies in working with two people who have a very similar plan, so we are able to reduce the price. For most clients who have any substantial assets, more planning is generally required than just a basic estate plan. Feel free to contact us to learn more, or follow our blog for posts about Trusts, LLC’s, and other tools for effective estate planning.