How to Become an

Estate Planning Lawyer

The complete career guide to be an Estate Planning Lawyer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $136,260
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • High Income Potential
    Career Attribute

An estate encompasses the entirety of wealth and assets that an individual has accrued over a lifetime, and estate planning lawyers help individuals plan for the distribution of those assets after death. They create wills, establish trusts, assign power of attorney, and maximize estate value by decreasing taxes.

Recommended Schools

What is an Estate Planning Lawyer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in estate planning lawyer roles:

  • Discuss goals and specific needs with clients in order to prepare legally binding documents that can be used to distribute estate funds and assets after death or incapacitation
  • Describe different estate planning options to help clients make informed decisions
  • Assist individuals with the preparation of wills, trusts, healthcare directives, and other important estate planning documents
  • Plan estate distributions in a way that decreases the amount of taxes that will be owed and ensuring that assets are safe from beneficiaries’ creditors
  • Inform beneficiaries of estate distribution decisions after the death of clients

A Day in the Life

Estate planning lawyers help clients plan for the distribution of assets after death or an incapacitating disability. An individual’s estate encompasses all of the wealth and assets that were accrued over a lifetime, minus any outstanding liabilities. Estate planning lawyers help individuals create legal documents that designate recipients—or beneficiaries—for those assets. This may include how wealth, property, life insurance distributions, pension or retirement funds, and other assets are distributed.

Initially, estate planning lawyers meet with clients to form a detailed understanding of needs and goals. Clients may have concerns about disputes among beneficiaries after death, or worried about providing for minors before they reach adulthood. By understanding client’s concerns and goals, the estate planning lawyer is able to offer different options to clients to help them ensure there’s legal documentation that will support their desires after they die, or in the case that they become disabled.

Estate planning lawyers help clients prepare wills, healthcare directives like living wills, trusts, living trusts, guardianships, and other estate planning documentation. In doing so, the lawyer can help clients plan for the distribution of estate proceeds in a way that minimizes the amount of taxes beneficiaries will have to pay, and secures those assets from beneficiaries’ creditors. After the death or incapacitation of a client, the estate planning lawyer meets with beneficiaries to explain how the client wanted his/her estate distributed.

Typical Work Schedule

Most estate planning lawyers work full-time schedules during normal business hours. Overtime is less common in this role than it is for attorneys in other specialties, but may be required on occasion to meet deadlines and prepare and process time-sensitive documents.

Projected Job Growth

The Baby Boomer generation is one of the largest generations in recent history, and most individuals of that generation are at or nearing retirement age. With a large population of individuals nearing ages where death and disability are more likely, demand for estate planning lawyers is expected to grow to help these individuals plan for the distribution of their estates.

Typical Employers

Most estate planning lawyers work for private law practices. They may operate their own practices, share operation of a practice with one or more partners, or work as an employee of a privately-owned estate planning law office.

Recommended Schools

How To Become an Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning lawyers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s and professional law degree, though many also earn a master’s degree to focus their education on estate law. The first step in the process is earning a bachelor’s degree. They major you pursue as an undergraduate is flexible, but pre-law, political science, English, and history degrees are common. To get into law school, you’ll need to have a good GPA, impressive references from your professors, and a high score on the standardized LSAT exam.

The next step is to apply for an be accepted into law school. Law school programs usually require three years of study and result in a professional Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. In the first year, you’ll study general law topics, but in your second and third years, you should have more flexibility in course scheduling to focus your education on estate law. After completing law school, you’ll need to take and pass the bar exam. Passing the bar exam is a requirement for becoming licensed to practice law in your state.

From there, you have two options for working your way into an estate law specialty. You can take an entry-level or apprentice position under an experienced estate planning lawyer, or you can undergo another two years of education to earn a master’s degree in estate law. With experience as an apprentice or focused study of estate law from a master’s program, you’ll have the skills and expertise necessary to begin practicing estate planning law independently, or to open your own estate planning law firm.

Estate Planning Lawyer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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How do Estate Planning Lawyer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Estate Planning Lawyer's can make an average annual salary of $136,260, or $66 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $76,300 or $37 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #22 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Highest Education Among Estate Planning Lawyers

  • 91%   Doctorate
  • 4.1%   Masters
  • 3.5%   Bachelors
  • 0.5%   Associates
  • 0.4%   College
  • 0.4%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Estate Planning Lawyer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 43,800 jobs for a total of 822,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #401 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Estate Planning Lawyers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Legal services 376,100 22,100 22%
Self-employed workers 165,500 -1,800 -2%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 55,600 5,300 5%

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