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Navigating Your Path to Becoming a Successful Estate Planning Paralegal

Published on: Jun 17, 2024

Estate planning paralegals are important contributors to estate planning law firms. These legal professionals work under the supervision of lawyers and assist with preparing estate planning documents and court filings. They may also have to manage probate cases overall.

In the following article, we will explore the responsibilities of an estate planning paralegal, their career path, typical employers that hire these paralegals, the significance of their role in the estate planning process, and how to assess if this career is the right fit for you.

Typical Responsibilities in this Role

Unlike other paralegal positions, where you mainly prepare legal documents and conduct research, an estate planning paralegal is a client-focused legal position. You are responsible for talking with clients about their final wishes, financial standings, and how they want their estate split among their heirs. You will also be responsible for meeting with relatives after a client has passed away and reviewing the details of their estate.

  • Reviewing creditor claims

  • Helping attorneys prepare estate planning documents such as a last will, revocable living trusts, and other probate forms

  • Handling estate taxes and asset protection

  • Assisting in the distribution and transfer of trust and probate estates

  • Preparing disclaimers

  • Notifying beneficiaries

  • Ensuring compliance with legal documents

  • Drafting and editing petitions and documents

  • Investigating issues and performing legal research regarding entitlement issues

  • Preparing analysis and summaries of estate planning documents

  • Preparing real estate transfer deeds and other similar documents necessary for the transfer of real estate

  • Drafting documents in response to inquiries

  • Assisting attorneys with trial preparation, such as preparing exhibits and other related documentation

Essential Knowledge and Skills

Estate planning paralegals require a comprehensive understanding of estate law, probate procedures, tax implications, and trust administration. You may also need an understanding of real estate and elder law.

However, in addition to being familiar with the probate process and other estate planning laws, estate planning paralegals must also be detail-oriented, have strong communication skills (written and verbal), exercise sound judgment, and work independently.

Typical Employers and Work Settings

Estate planning paralegals work in various settings, including law firms focusing on estate planning, general law practices with estate planning departments, financial advisory firms, and probate courts. Wherever these paralegals work, this position has direct client contact and makes a difference in the lives of both clients and paralegals.

A Day in the Life of an Estate Planning Paralegal

Your tasks will likely differ daily. One day, an estate paralegal may assist an attorney with estate tax issues; the next, they may have to sit with an emotional family member to discuss their loved one’s final wishes. Depending on the firm they work for, paralegals may also have to handle client consultations, document drafting, filing estate paperwork, and managing court dates for probate cases. 

Estate planning paralegals work with people from varying backgrounds. You need to be comfortable interacting with all types of people, especially under pressure or tense moments. Those who choose to pursue this field must be able to give clients peace of mind, help clients navigate unfamiliar court processes, and assist clients in making their plans come true.

Common Educational Paths to Consider

There are several educational paths for individuals interested in pursuing a career as an estate planning paralegal.

Considering an Associates vs a Bachelors Degree 

These paths include earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in legal studies, paralegal studies, or a related area of study. Pursuing a degree in paralegal studies also involves taking specialized courses such as estate planning. Such a course offers an overview of the principles of managing and distributing an estate during a person’s lifetime and after death. More importantly, these courses help prepare individuals to become valuable assets to law firms or other legal organizations.

Post-Degree Certification

Another educational pathway for estate planning paralegals is a post-degree certification. This certification is a shorter program but usually involves a more intensive training period, such as programs through Oakland University and Purdue Global. While these certifications are not mandatory to secure a job as a paralegal, many individuals decide to pursue this designation as it often demonstrates a commitment to the profession and an advanced level of expertise. 

For more information about these certifications or the requirements for enrolling in the program,  visit organizations such as NALA, The Paralegal Association, or The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA).

Challenges and Opportunities

Helping individuals or families plan for the future or create a well-thought-out estate plan can be incredibly fulfilling. While an estate planning paralegal has many benefits, it is important to understand every aspect of this role to determine if this position is right for you. Some critical challenges individuals in estate planning face include staying updated on estate law changes, managing sensitive client interactions, and dealing with families during emotional times.

This may be a good career if you enjoy helping others and like the challenge of legal work. There are many growth opportunities and career advancement within the field, including moving into senior paralegal roles, estate planning consulting, or pursuing further legal education to become an estate planning attorney.

Employment Opportunities and Salary Expectations

Estate planning paralegals earn an average of $61,134 per year, with top earners making upwards of $97,000. The salary range for this position varies based on opportunities for advancement, years of experience, the type of firm a paralegal works for, and geographic location. For instance, some top cities in the United States where the typical salary for an estate planning paralegal exceeds the national average include:

  • San Francisco, California ($76,752)

  • San Jose, California ($74,039) 

  • Oakland, California ($72,444)

  • Vallejo, California ($72,336)

Hayward, California ($72,320)

Resources and Further Exploration

If you are looking for further resources regarding estate planning or additional information about the estate planning paralegal position, the following resources can provide you with the insight you need:

Joining professional associations, such as the ones mentioned above, can help you expand your connections, offer further continuing education courses, and assist you in uncovering new job opportunities, such as litigation or probate paralegal, and negotiating higher salaries.

Do Not Wait Any Longer, Get Started On Your Paralegal Career Today

An estate planning paralegal is vital in helping individuals plan for the future, ensuring their last wishes are fulfilled, and helping them set up families for success. This makes the position a rewarding career.  However, as a niche area of law, estate planning can be complex. That is why specialized skills and experience can set individuals apart as candidates.

If you are considering a career as an estate planning paralegal, further your education, gain practical experience, and network with other professionals who can help you get ahead.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning