Below is a scenario that relates common experiences many people encounter when looking for a Wills, Trusts and Probate Attorney.
CLIENT: I was just at another law office nearby and completed my estate plan for only $999. What would you charge for an estate plan?
ATTORNEY: Well, that depends.
CLIENT: What do you mean? Aren’t all estate plans the same?
ATTORNEY: Not exactly.
CLIENT: Well I have a document that says BRUNO BEINLICH LIVING TRUST (look at paper)…that’s funny, my name is wrong. Now I am concerned. Can you review this for me? How much will that cost?
ATTORNEY: Well, I need to have an interview with you first so I can gather the facts necessary to assist you with your estate plan.
CLIENT: And how much will that cost?
ATTORNEY: Since you were referred to me by a Le Tip member, there will be no charge for your initial estate planning consultation.
CLIENT: Great – well I have a pretty simple story, I just want to leave everything to my kids.
ATTORNEY: OK, and are you married?
ATTORNEY: So, will you leave anything to your wife?
CLIENT: Oh yeah, I guess I forgot about her. Let’s leave her half of everything.
ATTORNEY: And I have to ask, is this your first wife, or have you been previously married?
CLIENT: Well, I was divorced once, but that was a long time ago. My new wife is much younger and much more attractive.
ATTORNEY: And tell me about your children.
CLIENT: Well, I had a son with my 1st wife, but I paid child support and don’t talk to him anymore. Then, I had three children with my second wife, but she passed away. Now, I have three step-children with my third wife….oh, and I just learned that we have one more on the way.
ATTORNEY: So I am counting 7 children, plus one more expected. Anything else I should know?
CLIENT: Well, my first child was adopted by his step-father. And, one of my sons is my business partner. And my middle child is currently in prison, so I don’t want him to receive anything. My youngest child is still in school, so I guess I would want to cover his education expenses. Gosh – this is a lot more complex than I imagined.
ATTORNEY: Yes, it sounds like you have a lot of people that you want to take care of. Did you have a pre-nupital agreement with your wife?
CLIENT: Why, yes we did! In fact, Christa Hill prepared that for us, and she recommended me to you.
ATTORNEY: Does your pre-nuptial agreement specify your wife’s inheritance?
CLIENT: Yes it does.
ATTORNEY: Then, your trust and Will must comply with your pre-nuptial agreement. Do you have a business agreement with your son?
CLIENT: Why, yes we do! In fact, Mark Holmes prepared that for us.
ATTORNEY: Then, that agreement is also binding on your estate, so we need to take that agreement into consideration. And, how about your residence? If you give half to your children, where will your wife live?
CLIENT: Golly-gee-willickers – I hadn’t thought of that!
ATTORNEY: And, do you support your wife?
CLIENT: I do.
ATTORNEY: And, do you want to provide an income stream for her after you are deceased? Maybe Ron Budd could help you with an insurance plan for that.
CLIENT: Thanks. I’ll make sure to follow up with him.
ATTORNEY: And, what is your relationship with your step-kids? Are you providing for them?
CLIENT: I would like to.
ATTORNEY: And, when your second wife passed away, did you have an estate plan?
CLIENT: We did.
ATTORNEY: And did it require the creation of a Marital Trust?
CLIENT: I don’t recall.
ATTORNEY: I need to review that for you before I draft your estate plan.
CLIENT: OK- I would appreciate it if you could assist me. And while you are at it, can you destroy this cheap $999 trust for me? I don’t think it works for my situation. When I met with that paralegal, I only filled out a piece of paper with my name and contact information. We didn’t discuss anything that I discussed with you. I sat in a long line in a crowded room, I got a free steak dinner, and then I wrote a check, and all I got was this document that doesn’t even have my name right. Gosh- I guess that was the most expensive steak dinner of my life. Thanks Mr. Alban for getting my affairs in order. I know your assistance will be worth every penny.
ATTORNEY: I’m glad to help.
This was a sample client interview. Most plans are not this complex, but there are many people out there who do not realize that they need attorney assistance to get their affairs in order. After my initial meeting with a potential client, I formulate a plan, and I can then give a fee quote to get the job done right. Most married couples are probably in the range of $1,500 to $2,500 for an estate plan.
Couples with tax planning or with minor children or children who are still in school are probably looking at a range from $2,000 to $3,000. Business owners or individuals with multiple real property assets are probably in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. I never know what the job will entail until I actually meet with the clients. After the initial meeting, I give the client a good idea of the work I will do and the fee for my services. If the client doesn’t want to proceed, there is no obligation.
So, it is beneficial to at least schedule a conference and have me give you a fee quote so that you can start getting your affairs in order. Your beneficiary (whether it is your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, a neighbor, or a charity) will thank you for your pre-planning and your organization. It is most helpful to them that y ou have a plan that takes care of your affairs when you are unable to do so. I encourage everyone to have an appropriate estate plan.