What can I expect an Estate Plan to cost me?

I charge $75 for initial consults, which average a couple of hours. When a specific plan is agreed upon, I send the client home with an Employment Agreement stating my flat fee for that plan, but I don't ask, or want, to be hired at that time.  The client needs time to digest all that was just discussed.  They are free to come back and hire me... or not.  This way, the client knows on the front end exactly what their total fee will be, what to expect in exchange for that fee, and they are not making 'knee jerk' decisions on the spot.  As to specific cost, it's difficult for me to be specific having not yet met you, much less discussed your estate, wants, wishes, concerns, etc.  That said, for a comprehensive estate plan (See my Blog), expect to be in the $750 - $2,450 range, depending on the comlexity of your estate and the complexity of your plan.

Note:  It may be the case that two separate clients' respective estate planning documents closely resemble each other (both in title and, perhaps, content), yet their respective Bills are not identical.  There are a multitude of things that can factor into a client's fee - i.e., size and complexity of estate, complexity of plan documents (one Trust Agreement may be much more complicated than another Trust Agreement), blended family issues, trust-funding issues, etc.  Some of these things, cumulatively, may cause me to raise a fee a bit or, conversely, lower a fee a bit.  I will not charge all clients the same exact fee simply because they are receiving the same type of estate planning documents.  If I did, I would have many clients paying more than they should.  While most every house has a foundation, roof, supporting walls, windows, etc., not all houses cost the exact same amount. In fact, two houses that appear identical from the curb will likely vary in cost... even if by the same builder..., typically because the builder has customized one of the homes in some ways (big or small) for the buyer.  I try to do the same with estate planning.  

What is an Estate Plan?

Any maneuvering one does in contemplation of his/her future incapacity and/or death is estate planning. It may be as simple as gifting certain assets while alive (a practice that should be done with caution), getting a POD (Payable-On-Death) beneficiary in place on a checking account, invoking a DPOA (Durable Power of Attorney), or executing a Last Will and Testament. Or, it may be a bit more involved and include a Trust and other estate planning tools. 

What is probate?

The word "probate" is what I call a 'slippery' term.  Most of us have heard the word, but cannot clearly define it.  What's more, it gets used as a noun, verb, and adjective, which makes it all the more confusing, I think.

If you pass with no estate planning or with a Will, only, much or all of your estate will be subject to probate - especially those things you own by deed (your house and other real estate), title (your vehicles, trailers, boat, etc.), or account name (your checking, savings, money market and other bank accounts).  

In the event you had no estate planning, your State's probate code (or set of probate statutes) will be referenced to determine your heirs at law (those entitled to inherit from you), as well as how much of your estate each heir will inherit.

If you pass with a Will, only, your State's probate code will be referenced for purposes of 'probating' your Will.  In this sense, the word "probate" references a very tedious and methodical legal process by which a Will is 'validated' (or, as the case may be, 'invalidated') and thereafter given effect.  If you have a Will, understand that it has no legal effect until two things happen:  1) you pass away; and 2) a probate court declares your Will is valid (i.e., not forged or otherwise defective).  


Why do I want to avoid probate?

When it comes to estate planning, there is only one 'no brainer' - avoid probate!  That is, develop a plan designed to keep your loved ones and your assets out of the probate lawyer's office and out of the probate judge's courtroom.  Probate is a very tedious and lengthy legal process that invariably requires an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.  In short, there are four 'kickers' that come with probate:

  • cost (expect the process to cost roughly 3-5% of your estate);

  • time (expect probate to tie assets up for 12-18 months!);

  • public (your Will and other probate matters are, generally, open and available to the public); and

  • assets are subject to unsecured creditors (while I do not condone not paying legitimate debts, sometimes having to open a probate case can result in a seemingly unfair result in this respect).

What is a Living Will?

As a part of your estate planning checklist, a Living Will, generally, makes known to your doctors and loved ones your specific wishes for end of life health care measures in the event your doctors have concluded that they cannot communicate effectively with you, their patient, and you are either permanently unconscious or brain dead or death is imminent and cannot be helped. By preparing your Living Will before the often intense, emotional times experienced when facing end-of-life issues, you offer those closest to you relief from the burden and stress of trying to guess what your wishes might be... and, even more so, greatly reduce the liklihood of them arguing about your wishes. 

A combination of a healthcare power of attorney (or healthcare proxy), living will, HIPAA Waiver, and various other healthcare documents is often referred to as an Advanced Directive.

What can my family expect if I die without an Estate Plan?

A percentage of the money and assets you intended to go to your children (or grandchildren or a charity) will likely go, instead, to a probate lawyer for 'probating' your estate (typically 3% to 5% of the combined gross value of all your probate assets at the date of your death! Convert that percentage figure to dollars and it's an eye-popping amount for most people).

Your children may have to wait... and wait... and wait to access any of your money or assets. Probate proceedings involving real estate often last 18-24 months! 

A breeding ground may be created for disagreement and turmoil amongst your children, beneficiaries, heirs, etc.

The probate process is public! One of the big perks of a living, revocable trust (a simple probate avoidance trust) is privacy.

In short, there is absolutely no reason to allow any of your assets or your family to fall subject to probate!

Lastly, if you want to decide WHO is taking care of you and your assets while you are incapacitated and after you have passed AND also control HOW they are going about it, then you must have a plan. Otherwise, you are leaving such matters up to one or more lawyers and a probate judge.

What are the 'nuts & bolts' of a Living Revocable Trust (as opposed to an Irrevocable Medicaid-Planning Trust)?

With the much more common revocable trust, while you and your spouse (or just you) are alive, you each serve as Trustees (or managers), maintaining absolute control over your money and assets that have been placed into your Trust. You maintain the ability to buy, sell, and transfer assets in, fundamentally, the same way as you always have. Should you become incapacitated, however, your Successor Trustee (pre-chosen by you) takes over and manages your assets for your care and benefit. Upon your death, your Successor Trustee properly maintains your assets until they can be distributed to your children (or other beneficiaries) upon them reaching an appropriate age. 

Irrevocable Trusts (often used for Medicaid planning purposes), on the other hand, require one to relinquish 'incidents of ownership and control' over their assets. Many people with these types of trusts do not even realize they have relinquished control of their home (or other assets they placed into this type of Trust) until they try to sell their home. Be careful and do your research before executing an irrevocable trust!

Can I do my Estate Planning from the comfort of my home?

You absolutely can! Although my office is at Mountain Home, Arkansas, I am licensed in both Arkansas and Missouri - you need only be a resident of one of those States. You can request a phone consultation to address all of your estate planning needs right from the comfort of you own home. Draft documents (made easily digestable) can be mailed to you for your review, followed of course, by another phone consultation (or multiple phone consults, if necessary) to go over the documents so that you fully understand each document and to ensure that they address all of your wants, wishes, and concerns. Final documents can then be mailed to you with instructions on how to properly execute them, along with a convenient self-addressed, prepaid return envelope, so that they can be properly organized and assembled into an estate planning binder (or 'toolbox', as I like to call it).  

Call 870.424.6337 or

Contact Me for an Appointment!


Beginning February 21, 2024, I will be beginning the process of closing my law practice to join First Security Bank's Trust Department at their Mountain Home location. From that date forth, I will no longer be accepting new clients or providing existing clients with any ongoing legal counsel. Please know that you may locate another attorney of your choosing by going to www.arkbar.com.

If you are a past estate planning client and would like photocopies of your original documents (the originals should be in your possession and/or control), please contact me as soon as is reasonably practical to make those arrangements. Best methods to contact me are listed below in order of preference:

1. travis@fordlawfirmmh.com

2. Text 870-405-5245

3. Call 870-405-5245

4. Call 870-424-6337

Although it has been a pleasure practicing law for the last 25 years, I am eager to transfer my estate planning experience to estate administration by serving as a trust officer at First Security Bank. If you find yourself looking for a trustee, I hope you will consider me.

Should you have any questions regarding the above, please know I stand available.


Travis W. Ford