Legal document preparation services are sometimes provided by attorneys, but in some states—including California and Arizona—paralegals and legal document assistants (LDA) provide these services. These professionals help prepare and file paperwork for living trusts and wills, powers of attorney, advanced healthcare directives, divorces, guardianships and custodies, adoptions, bankruptcy, and a variety of other proceedings, including probate (the legal process by which a will is proved valid), requests for court orders, marital settlement agreements with or without divorce, and so on. Because there is such a wide variety of legal documents and proceedings you can get help with, the fees vary widely, too—from $100–$435 and higher. Probate can cost thousands of dollars, which is why legal professionals recommend living trusts instead.
Personal or business documents
The cost legal document preparation varies, depending on whether the papers are for a business or an individual. Business proceedings don’t necessarily cost more, but the types of documents some preparation services can help with may vary. Bizie Ladie owner Vanessa Watson charges $500 to help complete documents to form a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), $300 and up for judgment enforcement documents, and $65 and up for legal messenger services within a 20-mile radius of Redondo Beach, California, where she is based. Document Preparation Specialists owner John Lungo, based in Phoenix, charges $199 to help clients file paperwork to form corporations or LLCs. Shannon Balk of All About You Paralegal Services offers a variety of legal document preparation services for individuals and businesses. Balk’s hourly rate is $30, but she charges flat fees for some clients, depending on their needs.
Will and living trust
Wills and living trusts are not the same thing. A will requires probate to confirm whether it is valid or not. With a living trust, people can avoid probate court. Lungo of Document Preparation Specialists charges $429 to prepare living trust documents for an individual and $529 for a couple, which includes the living trust, a living will, a pour-over will, and healthcare and financial powers of attorney documents. (A pour-over will is "testamentary device" wherein the writer of a will creates a trust and decrees in the will that the property in his or her estate at the time of his or her death shall be distributed to the trustee.) Watson of Bizie Ladie charges $600 for a living trust for an individual and $750 for a couple. Westside Legal Documents typically charges $850 to prepare a living trust for a couple. Valley Legal Plus charges $449 for a single living trust and $549 for a joint living trust.
Watson of Bizie Ladie charges $4,500 for full probate if the will is uncontested. For contested wills, her rate is $4,500 plus any additional time at a rate of $150 an hour. Lungo of Document Preparation Specialists asks clients to contact him so he can create an estimate to handle probate.
Divorce is an unfortunate reality for many married couples. A paralegal or LDA can help correctly draft and file the necessary legal forms. Watson of Bizie Ladie charges $450–$750 and up for summary divorce paperwork preparation, depending on whether there are children or not and how much property must be divided.
Document Preparation Specialists owner Lungo’s rates to file divorce paperwork start at $239 for divorce without children and $339 with children. Westside Legal Documents’ pricing for divorce paperwork starts at $400. Valley Legal Plus charges flat rates starting at $499 for divorce paperwork preparation. Valerie Coleman Mediation and Legal Document Preparation also offers mediation services to help couples more amicably dissolve marriages or domestic partnerships and create parenting plans.
Guardianship and custody
Couples who file for divorce or dissolution of a domestic partnership and have children may need help creating a parenting plan that specifies the details of their custody agreement. This service is usually included in a provider’s flat fee for preparing the divorce papers or charged as a separate fee for the additional time required to prepare these documents at the document preparer’s hourly rate.
Sandy Bunfill of Westside Legal Documents says clients can save money in cases of divorce if they are able to amicably agree on the terms. Anytime someone has to be served with a court summons, the cost increases.