How to Become an Estate Planning Paralegal

Estate planning paralegals have a high level of responsibility and autonomy.

They work under an attorney, but perform many legal duties on their own with the attorney overseeing their work.

Form for the purchase and sale of real estate. Sample of the signature of the contract for the purchase of property.

If you find this field interesting, you should consider this challenging career.

What Is an Estate Planning Paralegal?

Estate planning paralegals are paralegals that specialize in estate planning.

They often work with attorneys who focus on estate planning.

They may also work directly with clients or probate courts.

Your duties will vary depending on where you choose to work.

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However, duties can be divided into two types.

You may help clients with estate planning.

After a client passes, you may help with probate and estate administration.

Estate Planning

Estate planning paralegals often work with clients to create an estate plan and ensure that it meets legal requirements.

Your duties may include:

  • Speaking with clients
  • Understanding the client’s financial situation
  • Estate tax research and planning
  • Life insurance trusts
  • Creating wills, living wills, and other estate documents

Probate and Estate Administration

Estate planning paralegals often assist in probate proceedings and estate administration.

Duties can include:

  • Notifying beneficiaries
  • Preparing documents for distribution and tax purposes
  • Managing trust administration
  • Drafting and editing petitions and supporting documents required for trust administration
  • Legal research regarding wills, trusts, entitlement issues
  • Addressing creditor claims and conservatorship challenges
  • Creating summaries and analysis of estate planning documents

Steps to Become an Estate Planning Paralegal

There are a few ways to become an estate planning paralegal.

This includes completing a paralegal program, or an internship.

1. Complete a Paralegal Training Program

Since there are no formal requirements to become a paralegal, education programs can vary in length and the scope of what you will learn.

You may take a certificate, diploma, or degree program to begin your paralegal journey.

It’s important to note that if you want to pursue certification after graduating, you’ll need to choose a qualifying program.

Two organizations offer paralegal certification, and the programs that they recognize differ.

2. Consider an Internship or Employment

Nationwide, paralegal education and certification aren’t required to begin working as a paralegal.

This means it’s possible to begin your career without education or experience.

Some law offices may allow you to complete an internship to gain the skills you need for employment.

Even if you’ve completed a training program, internships can offer valuable experience.

3. Become Certified

Certification will help you stand out from the crowd and show potential employers that you know how to perform the duties of a paralegal.

You can qualify for certification by completing a paralegal program.

You can also qualify if you have enough years of experience as a paralegal, even if you don’t have formal training.

4. Get Specialized Education as an Estate Planning Paralegal

Most paralegal programs have a broad scope, which means you’ll learn about the different areas of law and how paralegals function in these areas.

Once you have a basic education and certification, you can get specialized training as an estate planning paralegal.

You can take courses that go in-depth into estate planning and probate.

NALA offers advanced certifications in family law and real estate principles that may be helpful.

Licensing Requirements to Become an Estate Planning Paralegal

There are no licensing requirements for paralegals.

They aren’t licensed because they aren’t allowed to practice law. Instead, they work under the supervision of an attorney, who is licensed.

However, licensing can help you find work and make you more attractive to potential employers.

NALA

NALA, or National Association of Legal Assistants, is the leading paralegal organization.

To qualify for NALA certification, you must meet one of their requirements.

If you are enrolled in or completed an approved training program, you are qualified for the exam.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you’ll need one year of experience and at least 15 hours of paralegal courses.

If you only have a high school diploma, you’ll need 5 years of experience as a paralegal and 20 hours of continuing education courses to be eligible for the exam.

The exam has two parts, which are knowledge and skills.

You’ll need to pass both portions to be certified.

You’ll need to complete an application and pay a fee to take the exam as well.

National Federation of Paralegal Associations

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or NFPA, also offers paralegal certification.

This is the oldest paralegal organization in the U.S.

Paralegals beginning their careers will take the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam or PCCE.

If you have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree plus a paralegal certificate, you are eligible.

If you have a paralegal certificate or a degree with no paralegal training, you’ll need one year of experience.

If you only have a high school education, you’ll need 5 years of experience.

You’ll pay a fee of $300 to $350 for the exam fee.

If you pass the exam, you’ll be a Certified Registered Paralegal or CRP.

Online Training Programs

Online training programs are a great way to get started as a paralegal.

National Paralegal College

The National Paralegal College focuses on paralegal and business programs.

You can earn a certificate in just 7 months.

An associate degree can be completed in 15 months, and you can earn a bachelor’s degree in legal studies in just 3 years.

These courses will teach you everything you need to know to become a paralegal.

A course in Wills, Trusts, and Estates is offered as part of each program.

UT Knoxville

UT Knoxville offers a Paralegal Studies Certificate program.

The course is completely online, and there are 5 start dates each year.

The course can be completed in 14 weeks.

You’ll work at your own pace, with the option of attending live online sessions.

Once you’ve completed the paralegal certificate course, you can take specialty courses.

You can earn an Advanced Paralegal Certificate if you complete 6 advanced or specialty courses.

Estate planning, Real Property Law, and Business Law are helpful advanced courses for estate planning paralegals.

Center for Legal Studies

The Center for Legal Studies offers a Core Paralegal and Estate Planning program.

It’s divided into three parts. Paralegal 1, Paralegal 2, and Estate Planning.

Each part of the program will be completed in 7 weeks, for a total of 21 weeks to finish the program.

You’ll receive a certificate of completion for each part of the course completed.

You can also choose to take the Estate Planning course on its own if you have paralegal education or experience.

If you’ve completed Paralegal 1 and Paralegal 2, you can earn an Advanced Paralegal certificate.

To earn this certificate, you’ll complete 6 advanced courses within one year.

Rasmussen University

If you don’t have an associate’s degree, you can earn an associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies from Rasmussen University.

If you already have a degree, you can earn a Paralegal certificate.

You can choose between a civil or criminal track, which allows you to specialize your learning to a degree.

Salary

Nationwide, the average salary for a real estate planning paralegal is $107,144.

Salaries typically range from $87,208 to $125,581.

How much you earn will depend on where you choose to work, your education, certification, and experience.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Alabama3,770$51,130$24.58$74,640$31,200
Alaska740$63,580$30.57$94,120$43,110
Arizona7,110$61,300$29.47$84,100$35,310
Arkansas2,160- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
California37,270$76,080$36.58$109,340$46,730
Colorado5,750$68,920$33.13$99,060$45,510
Connecticut4,860$67,310$32.36$91,590$46,350
Delaware1,760$68,340$32.86$99,100$41,350
District of Columbia5,580$91,880$44.17$124,650$56,780
Florida36,060$56,650$27.24$78,440$37,370
Georgia12,510$57,890$27.83$87,660$29,820
Hawaii1,150$59,690$28.70$82,310$42,270
Idaho1,500$49,930$24.00$66,940$27,100
Illinois12,370$63,590$30.57$97,100$38,060
Indiana5,590$54,080$26.00$81,840$34,820
Iowa2,570$58,310$28.04$79,260$38,260
Kansas2,680$53,440$25.69$79,630$34,710
Kentucky2,800$51,020$24.53$73,780$35,620
Louisiana5,250$52,760$25.36$75,100$35,380
Maine940$56,110$26.97$71,460$46,550
Maryland7,040$62,880$30.23$88,670$39,250
Massachusetts7,490$71,670$34.46$103,000$40,760
Michigan7,440$58,400$28.08$81,560$38,500
Minnesota6,140$63,450$30.51$94,910$39,790
Mississippi1,950$46,060$22.15$63,840$31,990
Missouri5,930$58,040$27.91$79,830$36,920
Montana1,320$58,190$27.98$79,520$41,900
Nebraska1,720$56,510$27.17$79,600$38,880
Nevada3,190$60,860$29.26$89,690$41,600
New Hampshire1,310$56,530$27.18$81,100$37,890
New Jersey9,580$65,570$31.52$96,480$38,650
New Mexico1,850$51,420$24.72$70,010$37,660
New York30,020$69,860$33.59$103,890$45,720
North Carolina12,290$56,120$26.98$81,310$35,920
North Dakota580$54,090$26.00$75,500$39,360
Ohio8,200$55,320$26.60$78,490$36,700
Oklahoma2,840$51,430$24.73$74,590$34,080
Oregon4,790$66,250$31.85$86,420$46,090
Pennsylvania11,390$64,730$31.12$92,560$39,460
Rhode Island1,320- NA -- NA -- NA -- NA -
South Carolina6,150$52,060$25.03$65,960$37,300
South Dakota500$55,290$26.58$68,120$44,300
Tennessee4,740$54,290$26.10$82,600$34,330
Texas24,600$59,970$28.83$94,540$36,300
Utah4,080$56,040$26.94$78,830$35,660
Vermont640$61,210$29.43$74,930$48,020
Virginia10,470$60,570$29.12$83,650$35,530
Washington8,020$72,590$34.90$106,510$47,960
West Virginia1,990$50,380$24.22$77,230$28,760
Wisconsin4,840$54,880$26.39$78,420$37,460
Wyoming400$52,500$25.24$65,150$36,110
Guam80$40,810$19.62$55,930$29,450
Puerto Rico710$45,220$21.74$65,670$30,560
Virgin Islands70$54,500$26.20$70,620$43,880

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $91,880.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $91,880
  • California - $76,080
  • Washington - $72,590
  • Massachusetts - $71,670
  • New York - $69,860
  • Colorado - $68,920
  • Delaware - $68,340
  • Connecticut - $67,310
  • Oregon - $66,250
  • New Jersey - $65,570
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, OCC Code 23-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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