The Importance and Cost of Basic Estate Planning Documents

Estate Planning | InspireHer: Plancorp Women’s Initiative | Estate Documents

 InspireHer By: InspireHer

Estate Planning is a broad term, often overwhelming and misunderstood. Some people think only the “wealthy” need an Estate Plan, but the bottom line is most everyone should have a basic Estate Plan. Estate Planning is a topic near and dear to our hearts as we work with many clients to help develop a comprehensive Estate Plan. You can find an array of Estate Planning articles and angles in the Estate Planning section of the Plancorp blog ranging from Estate Planning basics to choosing an Executor for your Estate to Advanced Estate Planning Techniques and more.

While an Estate Plan can be extensive and expensive depending on the size and intricacy of your estate, drafting basic estate planning documents can be affordable and one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Last year we shared 10 helpful estate planning tips; in this article, we’d like to focus on tip #6: Create Your Estate Documents, which include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) - also known as a Financial Power of Attorney
  • Advanced Medical Directives (includes a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare)
  • Will
  • Letter of Instruction
  • Living Trust

Regardless of your stage in life (young adult, middle-aged, older & wiser), and whether you’re single, married, have children/no children, are a caregiver for another loved one, you should take the time to get these basic Estate Planning documents in place. We’ve provided estimated costs for each document (documents and prices may vary based on location). Keep in mind, some estate planning attorneys may offer an Estate Plan package which may be a more affordable option than paying for individual documents.

Cost of Estate Planning Components

  • Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)/ Financial Power of Attorney: Authorizes someone to act on your behalf should you become physically or mentally incapable in handling financial matters. The person you designate in the DPOA can pay bills, file taxes, direct investments, and complete important money management tasks on your behalf.
    • Estimated Cost: $100-$300
  • Advanced Medical Directive: Legal document that specifies your wishes about receiving medical care if you are no longer able to make medical decisions because of a serious illness or injury (National Cancer Institute). There are different types of  advanced directives, but you should consider drafting a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
    • Living Will: Ensures your end-of-life healthcare wishes are legally documented.
    • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Allows you to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
    • Estimated Cost: $250-$500
  • Will: A legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and care of any minor children. This is different than a living will, which dictates decisions about your medical wishes.
    • Estimated Cost: $300-$1,000
  • Letter of Instruction: An informal document that provides your Successor Trustee/Executor with information about your wishes after you pass away.
    • Estimated Cost: Free (your attorney should be able to help you with this and may charge a fee, but you can also draft a letter on your own). Here is a link to help you write a letter of instruction.
  • Living Trust: Unlike a will which takes effect upon your death, a Living Trust will not only keep your assets out of probate, but also very simply put, is a "legal arrangement that lets you decide how your assets are managed and distributed, both during your lifetime and after you die."
    • Estimated Cost: $1,500-$2,500

Learn more about these documents and the cost of not having an Estate Plan in another previous blog post: What you need to know about Estate Planning.

Having these documents drafted will likely take multiple discussions and time, but the importance cannot be overstated. One pro tip we share with our clients is to not overlook the emotional aspect of discussing estate planning topics. Many delay the planning process simply because these conversations can be difficult, particularly when they involve children or medical decisions.  Although it can be unpleasant to broach these topics with family and friends, it can be especially challenging to talk to your parents. The Balance published a helpful article that offers tips on having Estate Planning discussions with your family.

Of course, you don’t have to do this on your own! The value of involving your financial advisor or wealth manager is having a non-biased person on your side that can help coordinate each piece of the puzzle and make sure they all support your financial plan and personal goals. This way you aren't putting your estate planning lawyer in a silo. This is often a pitfall of DIY estate planning; you end up with fractured pieces that don't necessarily cover everything you need because you didn't involve someone experienced in your estate planning process.

If you’d like to speak to a Wealth Manager about your estate or estate planning needs, schedule a call with us.


Costs provided are estimates (not guarantees) and may vary based on location and needs. Please contact an attorney to obtain an actual cost for estate planning services.

Estate Planning documents vary by state. Please contact an attorney licensed in your state to confirm what documents are required/accepted in your state of residence.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. All investing involves risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors.

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