If you have a very simple or small estate and only need very basic services or forms, there are several different ways to make an estate plan for almost no money. If you can afford to pay an attorney even a small amount to prepare your estate planning documents, that is always the preferred option to ensure your documents are valid and that you are aware of the tax ramifications of your estate plan. However, if you cannot pay the cost of an estate planning lawyer, here are several ways to get free estate planning:1. Contact your local legal aid association and find out if you qualify to have a legal aid attorney help you with basic estate planning documents, such as a will and health care directives.
2. Use free estate planning forms developed by your state government. For example, some states have adopted
state will forms you can print for free. Also, if you want to make a living will or appoint an agent for health care decisions, most states offer fill in the blank forms you can print online. See medical decision laws to find health care directive forms for your state.3. Use free estate planning forms available online. Pennyborn.com offers many free forms on our website. For example, if you want a last wishes planner to leave instructions for your funeral and other final arrangements, a pet guardian form to leave instructions for the care of your pets, an estate planning worksheet to organize your information before making a will or living trust, or a letter of instruction to your executor or next of kin, these forms are all available at no cost on Pennyborn.com. To print these free forms, go to our free estate plan forms page.4. Many lawyers offer a free consultation to help clients learn about the services they offer and find out how much it costs to hire an attorney. You may be surprised to learn having your estate plan prepared by a professional is not as expensive as you think. Call several estate planning attorneys in your area and ask if they offer a
free consultation. Most free consultations last approximately thirty minutes. This gives you an opportunity to learn what type of estate planning documents you need to make and compare the cost of doing it yourself versus having an attorney prepare them.
5. Use an attorney provided by a prepaid legal services plan. Many employers offer prepaid legal services plans as part of their employee benefits. Read your employee benefits materials to determine if this service is available at your company or contact your HR benefits representative. Referred to as group legal plans, this employee benefit typically allows covered employees to use a plan attorney to have wills, codicils and amendments, living wills, and power of attorney documents prepared at no charge. Group legal plans also sometimes provide covered employees with an attorney to help with basic elder law and guardianship matters, and discounts on probate law services. You may be responsible to pay the difference between what is covered by the plan and the attorney's fees. To learn more, see
prepaid legal services.
6. Most state bar associations publish free pamphlets on making a will, health care directives, elder law issues, and legal guides for seniors. These pamphlets typically include information on who inherits your estate if you die without a will along with answers to common questions about estate planning and probate laws in that state. To find the bar association in your state and access this information, go to our
state laws page.7. Take advantage of free law clinics and pro bono estate planning workshops in your community. There are many different organizations that provide pro bono attorneys for basic estate planning services. For example, there are non-profit organizations and volunteer groups that help U.S. veterans make wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and related documents at no cost in several states. For information about free and low cost estate planning services in your area, contact your state or county bar association, your local legal aid society, or a law school near you.
Who Can Benefit From Free Estate Planning
Using free estate planning forms and services is only an option for making the most basic estate planning documents for small estates that should be relatively simple to administer. If you are unable to pay the cost of having your estate plan prepared by an attorney, you may be able to use free estate planning options to do the following:
1. Find out who will inherit your property if you
die without a will.
2. Name a guardian for your minor child in the event of your death or incapacity. See
3. Make a basic will to name beneficiaries to inherit your estate and name an executor to administer it.
4. Find out the requirements to make a valid will in the state where you live.
5. Execute the necessary documents to ensure your spouse, partner or children will inherit your interest in the family home.
6. Leave instructions about your
last wishes for your funeral, burial or cremation.
Who Should Not Use Free Estate Planning
This page provides a list of resources to help people find free estate planning forms and services. These forms and services are only appropriate for use in small estates or for individuals with simple estate planning objectives that do not anticipate any complications in settling their estate. In general, free estate planning should not be used if any of the following apply:
1. You own real estate and need to make changes to title to property by making a new deed as part of your estate plan. See
estate planning deeds.
2. You believe your heirs may file a will contest or other estate litigation and want to ensure your estate planning documents are prepared in a manner to reduce the likelihood of
will and trust disputes.
3. You want to make an estate planning trust, such as a
living trust or another type of trust.
4. You are concerned about how to pay for nursing home or long term care and want to engage in
5. You own a sole proprietorship, corporation, limited liability company or partnership. See
estate planning for small business.
6. You own a farm, rental properties, investments, copyrights, patents or trademarks.
7. You have a sizeable net worth and your estate may be subject to federal or state estate taxes, gift taxes or generation-skipping transfer taxes. If your estate plan requires tax planning or financial planning, you should not rely on free estate planning methods.
8. You plan to make substantial charitable bequests or gifts as part of your estate plan. See
9. Your child needs to qualify for Medicaid and you need to make a
special needs trust.
Low Cost Estate Planning Methods
If you are unable to complete your estate plan using the free estate planning methods listed above, there are several low cost estate planning options. By using one or more of these low cost estate planning methods, you can complete your estate planning documents for a few hundred dollars or less. Consider these more affordable estate planning methods:1. Create your own will, living will, power of attorney, funeral instructions, and pet guardian arrangements using
estate planning software. If you are going to make an estate plan on your own, you should also read one or more estate planning books for instructions on how to execute the paperwork.2. Contact an attorney and ask about flat fee rates for wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. Many attorneys, especially those in solo practice, offer flat fee rates for estate planning documents. Using this method, you may be able to get your estate plan prepared at a very affordable price. For tips on how to do this, go to finding an attorney.
Note: Only an attorney licensed in the state where you are domiciled can advise you on the laws and regulations regarding estate planning, trusts, estate taxes, probate, and elder law.