How to Start an Estate Planning Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: April 1, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The U.S. trusts and estates industry earned $221.4 billion in 2023. As baby boomers retire and transfer wealth to the next generation, demand for estate planning services continues to grow. However, launching any business presents challenges.


You’ll need to develop expertise in estate law, financial planning, tax minimization strategies, and more. It’s also vital to understand how to market your services and choose the right business structure and models that meet client needs while optimizing profits.

This guide will walk you through how to start an estate planning business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, forming a legal business entity, and more.

1. Conduct Estate Planning Market Research

Thorough market research is crucial when assessing the opportunity in estate planning. Research offers insight into your target market, local competitors, and other tips on running a successful estate planning practice.


Some details you’ll learn through market research on estate planning documents and estate tax include:

  • The global estate planning market is experiencing steady growth. Precise market size projections vary, but most data points to strong demand.
  • As Baby Boomers retire, there is a major wealth transfer underway.
  • With complex asset portfolios to manage and taxes to optimize estate planning needs are substantial.
  • There is also rising demand among high-net-worth individuals.
  • At a local level, focusing your firm around a major metro area with a high concentration of potentially affluent clients is advised early on.
  • Target markets might include places like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas.
  • It’s also important to see what’s driving client decisions around estate planning needs.

This estate planning law practice research should equip you with pivotal insights into breaking into the estate planning industry. You can narrow down high-potential target markets, identify consumer pain points to address, set competitive yet profitable rates, and more.

2. Analyze the Competition

Gauging the competitive landscape is vital for any new estate planning firm. Both offline and online competitors should be examined to find strategic advantages. There are many ways to get to know competing estate plan companies as you build your own estate planning practice.

For localized brick-and-mortar competition, start by identifying established firms in your metro area. Research top players and boutique outfits, analyzing their specific services, credentials, and niches. Drive past offices, collect sales brochures, and browse websites to evaluate positioning.

It’s also important to run competitors through review platforms like Yelp to see feedback and pain points called out by past clients. This uncovers opportunities to better cater to customer needs down the line with your firm.

On the digital side, SEMrush and SimilarWeb provide useful competitive intelligence. Input competitor websites to see their site traffic, top landing pages, and traffic sources over time. These tools also estimate the keywords and monthly search volumes they target organically.

In the end, this 360-degree view of offline brick-and-mortar and online competitors should expose strategic openings. You can zero in on underserved client needs in the market to build services around.

Use research to optimize branding, web visibility, client outreach practices, and other differentiators as you get your estate planning firm off the ground. Maintaining a detailed competitor analysis is crucial even after launching, to continually adjust to market forces.

3. Costs to Start an Estate Planning Business

Getting an estate planning firm off the ground requires careful financial planning and budgeting. Between initial legal preparations, office space, staffing, and more, costs can add up rapidly. Understanding likely expenses is key for new entrepreneurs in this industry.

Startup Costs

  • Fees vary by state but expect around $100-$200 to formally create an LLC or corporation.
  • Legal fees also come into play if you need assistance properly filing organizational documents. attorneys may charge $200-$300 per hour to ensure full compliance.
  • Small commercial office spaces can run between $1,500-$4,000+ per month on average.
  • Factor in a 1-2 month security deposit and any tenant improvements you might need like furniture, business phone, and internet services. That can mean over $10,000 just to secure and outfit office space at the outset.
  • Hire an Office Manager first at around $40,000-$60,000 yearly. Then bring on other Associates with legal and financial expertise at comparable salary levels.
  • Office furniture like desks ($300+ each) and chairs ($100+ each) should fit your brand image. Invest in powerful computers ($1,000+ each) to keep everything running smoothly.

Ongoing Costs

Ongoing monthly operating costs also start to accrue once the business opens for clients. These include:

  • Rent and Utilities: $2,000+
  • Payroll Expenses: $12,000+
  • General Liability Insurance: $150+
  • Office Supplies: $500+
  • Software and Legal Research Subscriptions: $300+
  • Advertising: $2,000+
  • Accounting Services: $500+

There are also intermittent annual expenses that take effect over time such as:

  • Local/State Business Licensing Fees: $100-$300
  • Continued Staff Training: $3,000+
  • Technology Upgrades: $2,000+
  • Professional Associations/Memberships: $500+

Take the first 1-3 years to focus intently on client acquisition before expanding staff and services. Carefully manage cash flow and seal high ticket cases to establish stability. With consistent business development and operational excellence, the financial picture will only improve in time.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When establishing a new estate planning company, one of the first legal steps is formalizing your business structure. The entity type you choose impacts everything from day-to-day operations to taxes and personal liability. Let’s explore some of the most common options for this industry:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship represents the simplest structure where you directly own an unincorporated business personally. It offers no personal asset protection. Any legal claim or business debt incurred by the firm is your responsibility. For estate planning, steering clear of sole proprietor status is wise to protect personal assets.


Forming a general partnership allows multiple estate planners to co-own a firm together. Partners split profits according to agreed ownership percentages. The upside of sole proprietorship is the ability to pool resources and skills with others in the industry. But you still face full personal liability without formal corporate separation.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

For estate planning firms, forming an LLC is typically the most balanced approach. As the name suggests, your assets gain protection from any debts, lawsuits, or claims against the business itself. Taxes are also fairly flexible with LLC income directly passing through to your returns.


S-corp or C-corp status merit consideration down the line. These incorporate your business fully, issuing company stock to owners instead of LLC membership units. Corporate taxes apply, requiring the filing of business returns. C-corps in particular face “double taxation” with income taxed once at the corporate level.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Once your estate planning company is legally formed, tax compliance steps come next. It’s a good idea to prepare your taxes in advance so you can quickly comply with the requirements. A key task is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.

An EIN serves as a unique tax ID number for your business to handle areas like:

  • Opening business bank accounts
  • Paying employees
  • Filing tax returns

Applying for an EIN is free and can be completed online via the IRS website in minutes.

To obtain your EIN:

  1. Go to the IRS Apply for an Employer Identification Number page
  2. Select view Additional Resources > Apply Online Now
  3. Follow the steps to enter your information
  4. Print or save the confirmation notice with your new EIN

This ID number should be included on all tax documents and filings for your estate planning firm moving forward.

You’ll also need to register with your state taxation department for a Sales Tax ID number if you plan to collect sales tax from clients. Requirements vary by state. Expect fees of around $20-$50 to complete state sales tax compliance.

On the topic of taxes, choosing a reliable CPA or accountant from the start is also advised. While costs vary, plan on investing $200-$500 monthly for professional assistance managing payroll taxes, Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments, corporate tax returns, and personal filings.

Keeping up with federal and state tax compliance may seem complex during the early chaotic days of entrepreneurship. However taking a systematic approach to securing your EIN, sales tax ID, and accountant partnership helps lay a strong financial foundation for your estate planning firm.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Robust accounting practices are vital for achieving tax compliance and long-term profitability with any estate planning firm. From bookkeeping software to accountant partnerships, shoring up financial management early is key.

Accounting Software

Starting with the basics, using small business accounting software like QuickBooks streamlines recording day-to-day transactions. Connect Integrations with bank accounts and credit cards automatically import expenses for categorization. This makes tracking deductible purchases seamless while simplifying payroll and invoicing.

Hire an Accountant

Partnering with an accountant takes optimization further. Specialists can handle reconciling accounts, ensuring compliance, and surfacing insights to improve margins. Expect to invest around $200-$500 monthly for routine bookkeeping and consultation across:

  • Accounts Payable/Receivable
  • Monthly Close Process
  • Expense/Deduction Guidance
  • Quarterly Sales Tax Filings
  • Payroll Processing

When tax season hits, your accountant can also compile documentation for annual income, and corporate and personal tax return filings. This comprehensive prep work and expert review prevents mistakes that trigger audits down the line.

Open a Business Bank Account and Credit Card

Another accounting fundamental is separating personal and business finances. Maintain a dedicated business checking account, business savings, and business credit card solely for company use. Never comingle expenses across accounts. This provides clear documentation come tax season.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

While tedious, obtaining proper licensing is crucial for legally and safely operating any estate planning firm. Requirements vary significantly depending on your state and local municipalities. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

At the state level, you’ll need to become a Licensed Fiduciary if you handle client money or property, or deal with the federal estate tax. This involves passing competency exams, submitting an application, and paying fees of around $300-$500 to your state’s financial regulation department. Renewals are then required every 1-2 years.

Estate planning attorneys must obtain a Certificate of Occupancy before opening doors to the public. This verifies the premises meet building codes, zoning, fire safety rules, and accessibility standards. Fees are typically based on square footage, ranging from $100 for a small office up to several thousand dollars.

If hiring employees right away, also register for Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage within 30 days. This state-administered program covers injuries, missed wages, and rehabilitation for on-the-job accidents. Costs vary by risk exposure but expect initial premiums around $1,500+ annually.

Any estate planning websites should also clearly display details on licenses held and your physical business address. This helps legitimize your practice and builds client trust through transparency.

Certain local permits may also apply depending on your city or county. For example, if installing exterior office signage, a Sign Permit helps ensure conformance with size restrictions, zoning allowances, and placement guidelines.

8. Get Business Insurance

Business insurance shields companies from common estate planning mistakes that threaten operations and profitability. For estate planning firms, coverage merits consideration to mitigate vulnerabilities like:

  • Scenario 1: A client slips and falls in your office, suffering injuries warranting substantial medical treatment and lost wages from missed work. Without insurance, their likely lawsuit could force your new practice to close.
  • Scenario 2: Your firm’s computer network is hacked, exposing sensitive client financial information and personal data. Massive regulatory fines under privacy laws ensue without protection.
  • Scenario 3: A fire destroys your office and equipment, halting work indefinitely. Lacking coverage, you single-handedly shoulder the costs of recovery.

The right insurance reduces these disruptive threats that even diligent planning can’t control. Common startup policies like General Liability Insurance guard against bodily injury lawsuits and property damage claims. Expect about $50 per month for $1 million in coverage.

Cyber liability insurance also offers pivotal peace of mind. Plans start around $100 monthly, covering costs of data breaches plus customer notification and credit monitoring.

Umbrella insurance is another option, providing additional liability coverage beyond existing policies. Extra coverage levels of $1-$5 million can run $150-500 annually.

Work closely with an independent insurance broker to review risks and build adequate protection for your practice. Be prepared to share details on operations, premises, data handling procedures, and more to assess suitable coverage mixes and limits.

9. Create an Office Space

Securing professional office space lends legitimacy to any estate planning practice while allowing you to meet safely and privately with clients. Let’s explore the top dedicated office setups for an estate taxes and planning business:

Coworking Office

Coworking spaces like WeWork enable on-demand access to furnished offices without huge overheads. Month-to-month commitments allow flexibility as you test markets and build your client roster. Expect to invest around $300-$800 monthly for a small private office, internet access, printing, conference rooms, and networking events.

Commercial Office

Executive suite options offer more polished, dedicated spaces sized for small professional services teams. Think premium finishes and reception staff without the hassles of handling office management yourself. Spaces run $1,000-$1,500 monthly, but address phones, utilities, parking, and other logistics so you can focus solely on clients.

10. Source Your Equipment

Launching an estate planning firm doesn’t require extensive specialized equipment beyond typical office necessities. Focus first on reliable technology and furnishings to support daily operations through:

New Equipment

Outfit your team with the latest computers, printers, and software for maximum efficiency. Expect costs of around $1,500 per high-powered workstation. Ergonomic desk chairs ($300+) and conference tables ($1,000+) also contribute to productivity. Shop mainstream retailers like Staples or Office Depot for one-stop access to new warrantied gear.

Used Equipment

Gently-used equipment through secondary markets cuts costs substantially. Shop liquidation sites like National Office Liquidators to find discounted Herman Miller chairs, desks, and shelves saving 50% or more over new. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist also list local deals.

Rented Equipment

Event-based needs like planning conferences or seminars may warrant temporarily renting additional gear. Take advantage of flexible short-term rentals for large presentation displays, PA equipment, chairs, and staging available through national rental outlets.

Leased Equipment

Long-term recurring expenses like printers and copy machines work well under leased agreements. Providers cover maintenance costs while letting you upgrade to the latest models every few years. This keeps your firm running without major upfront capital or obsolescence risk spending for rapidly advancing technologies.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand identity enables estate planning firms to connect with clients and stand out from competitors. Invest time upfront in assets conveying excellence and trustworthiness.

Get a Business Phone Number

Start with a dedicated business phone line instead of using personal cell numbers. Services like RingCentral deliver call management features like voicemail transcription for about $30 monthly. This builds credibility with new callers and separates work from personal life.

Design a Logo

Creating a sleek, memorable logo also pays dividends for recognition. Consider icons encompassing key services like wills, trusts, and asset protection paired with an easy-to-read brand name. Tools like Looka make exploring design options simple, even without graphic design expertise.

Print Business Cards

Speaking of business cards, having professional collateral conveys legitimacy during client meetings and industry networking events. Cards typically cost under $20 for a batch of 500 high-quality designs from trusted printers like Vistaprint. While increasingly digital, physical cards still enable vital first impressions conveying your brand.

Get a Domain Name

Pick an intuitive .com domain name from registrars like Namecheap for about $12 per year. Ideally, focus on easy-to-remember phrases or your exact business name for direct association.

Design a Website

Building out a proper law firm website then enables 24/7 exposure and client inquiry capture. Rather than paying web developers thousands, leverage DIY platforms like Wix for quick launch. Alternatively, you can hire freelancers starting around $500 on marketplaces like Fiverr for custom site development.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Joining key professional associations and peer groups accelerates growth for new estate planning firms through networking, referrals, and insider knowledge.

Local Associations

Industry associations like the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) also connect practitioners across the country sharing best practices. Access member directories to tap subject matter experts for advice in niche areas like Medicaid planning. Yearly memberships start around $250.

Local Meetups

Don’t overlook casual meetups either. Local attorney mixers and events posted on platforms like Meetup drive organic relationship-building in supportive settings. These lead to cross-referral partnerships over time. Expect most events to carry modest entry fees of around $10-25 per session.

Facebook Groups

Specialty groups on social sites like Facebook facilitate more crowdsourced intel gathering from peers nationwide. Pose questions to vetted industry colleagues to gain insights on everything from software to hiring. Check out Estate Planning and Probate 101 and Estate Planning Professionals.

13. How to Market an Estate Planning Business

Implementing an ongoing marketing strategy is essential for estate planning firms to continually expand their client roster and amplify referrals. While word-of-mouth drives growth initially, proactive outreach and advertising will accelerate the pace.


Personal Networking

Tap into your personal and professional circles first. Reach out to existing connections who could benefit from services and ask for introductions to those in their network preparing for retirement and asset transfers.

Digital Marketing

  • Launch Google Ads campaigns to appear for searches like “estate planning attorney near me” within your geographic target area. Expect to invest around $500 monthly to attract new website visitors.
  • Promote content and offers through Facebook/Instagram ads micro-targeted to demographic/interest tags for those likely needing estate guidance. Budget $100-$300 monthly testing different creatives and messages.
  • Start an Estate Planning YouTube channel creating short explanatory videos on topics like taxes, trusts, and end-of-life financial details. Use descriptive titles and tags to rank in Search results.
  • Blog regularly on industry basics and evergreen planning guidance useful for local readers. Optimize posts for SEO including metro area keywords.

Traditional Marketing

  • Print brochures and flyers distributed to health providers like hospitals/nursing homes where families often confront end-of-life decisions needing your guidance on legal and financial matters.
  • Take out ads in newspapers and local magazines read by higher-income retirees who stand to benefit greatly from estate optimization. Expect costs around $500-$1,500 per placement.
  • Sponsor community events like marathon runs and galas frequented by more affluent prospective clients with assets needing protection.
  • Appear as a guest on local radio shows to demonstrate thought leadership around estate planning topics relevant to listeners.

Consistency and diversification are key—set aside at least 10% of fees collected toward ongoing promotional initiatives through both digital and traditional channels. This compounding brand exposure leads more Floridians to retain your firm ensuring stability.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering exceptional customer service is pivotal for estate planning firms to nurture enduring client relationships and referrals. Dealing with tangible and intangible assets as a state planning lawyer requires tact. Knowing your customer makes it easier to manage their financial affairs.


Schedule at least one annual review for each client to discuss their changing needs and update plans accordingly. This proactive care tells customers their interests will never fall by the wayside as laws and life circumstances evolve.

During stressful events like the loss of a loved one, make yourself available outside normal hours if necessary. Helping navigate required legal filings and notifications with care tells clients you’ll support them whenever tough situations arise.

Take criticism and suggestions gracefully too. If a customer felt hurried or that risks were not fully explained at signing, apologize directly and do better next time. Reflect on feedback to constantly improve service.

For an industry centered on complex emotional decisions, positive word of mouth stemming from exceeded expectations carries immense influence. This drives organic growth more cost-effectively than any advertisement. Prioritizing relationships beyond transactions retains hard-won patrons.

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