One of the common questions we are asked by potential clients, sometimes before we’ve even had a chance to introduce ourselves, is “what do you charge?” I get it, I’m a consumer and sit on that side of the equation in all aspects of my life but this one where I run a law firm, cost
matters. But, is cost all that matters (or should it even be the most important variable in deciding which lawyer and law firm to work with on something as important as your estate planning)? Let’s work through the “what do you charge?” question and figure out whether you’re even making an apples to apples comparison when it comes to the different fees lawyers and law firms charge for your estate planning or if you’re really comparing apples to oranges (or something even wilder – say apples to steak!).
Cut rate attorneys and law firms, as well as online document providers such as LegalZoom, have attempted to turn estate planning into a commodity. They simply rip a template document off the shelf, fill in your name and address, drop in your beneficiaries’ names, and email you a document for you to sign. Is this estate planning? Is asking for your name, date of birth, beneficiary information, and a few other miscellaneous pieces of information estate planning? Is this what you worked a lifetime for and wish to leave as your legacy? Is this going to protect your surviving spouse or children when you’re no longer able to?
We’ll begin with a fairly intense one to two-hour educational session, an Estate Plan Design Meeting (aka a strategy session) where you’ll learn all you ever wanted to know about estate planning (and then some!). How estate planning applies to you, your family, your assets – and how to mesh these with your goals, concerns, and individual set of circumstances. Don’t worry, we usually get through this meeting in about 60-90 minutes, however, since no one likes to be rushed, we are happy to book your meeting with some cushion.
And this is just the first step in a well-oiled and detailed process. We’ll then custom build an estate plan for you (not everyone else, just you) – one that addresses each and every one of your goals and concerns. This is not “rip off the shelf and fill in the blank planning” – this is real estate planning that your family deserves.
We’ll then work through your estate plan together in a page flip review that typically takes about an hour. We’re not a firm that would ever say “we know best, be quiet and sign here.” We’re not trying to turn you into an estate planning lawyer either, but we do feel clients deserve a “plain English” explanation of their estate plan and that’s what this page flip accomplishes. Clients love it and I truly believe it’s a fundamental reason why our clients leave the ubiquitous 5-star online public and verifiable reviews they do.
Once your estate plan is finalized your Signing Ceremony will take place, however, even once you’ve signed your estate plan, our work together does not come to an end as it does with most lawyers and law firms.
You’ll be given your estate plan in an envelope (something easy to lose in the years ahead), told “thank you”, and sent on your way. A soon to be forgotten transaction.
Shortly after your signing you will receive a fully executed PDF of your estate plan which you can share with family, various decision makers you’ve named in the estate plan, and anyone else appropriate (don’t worry, we’ll work through with you exactly who your estate plan should, and needs to, be shared with). Approximately two to three weeks after your signing you’ll receive in the mail a tabbed version of your estate plan in a leather-bound binder – something we refer to as an “Owner’s Manual” as it goes far beyond just binding and tabbing your estate plan itself. Within the Owner’s Manual your healthcare and financial decision makers will have all they need when something happens to you, be it incapacity or your death. We set things up for a smooth and efficient administration post your incapacity or death, and that begins with your Owner’s Manual.
“Give us a call if you ever need, you won’t ever hear from us proactively (or if you do it will be with a bill attached).”
We know that your needs change, maybe who you want to be guardian of your minor child changes, and laws seemingly ALWAYS change. If you were purchasing a car, you’d certainly ask about the service package – the same must be true with your estate planning.
We make ourselves available to you not just while we’re working together on your estate plan but long after that work is complete. We form lifetime relationships with our clients, you are not a one-off transaction to be done with and forgotten.
Just pick up the phone or email us. We’ll never send you a bill for that (that would be crazy, insane even, but many firms do just that – bill in 6-minute increments!)
We’ll send this to you and it will keep you informed of changes in the law, changes in planning techniques, income tax and financial matters (plus some personal stories about my family and I, typically when my children have done something fun or silly!).
If something material in the laws or planning techniques change, we’ll let you know!
This one should go without saying, we treat existing clients very well on future planning needs, if any.
Come in and we’re happy to discuss your estate plan, who you’ve named in various decision-making roles, asset distribution structure, etc. We’ll make sure that what you put in place “today” is still the right fit in the future.
I would imagine we’d all agree that the above is much better than how you’ll be thrown to the wolves to fend for yourself in the years ahead as is all too common at most firms.
We do things different at Katzner Law Group. I like to say, both to our clients and my own team, that we’re running a business but let’s make sure we do it the right way.
I’m sure the above shows you that there are real differences between estate plans and estate planners from one law firm to another – it’s not an apples to apples comparison of simply asking “what do you charge?” And this is just the tip of the iceberg – this article doesn’t even touch on ultra-important topics such as “is your LegalZoom type estate plan going to create an 18-year-old millionaire?”, “will your inheritance end up in the hands of your child’s divorcing spouse?”, “did you properly plan for your retirement assets?”, and on and on.
Bottom line, experience, expertise, and proper counseling count – more so than the question “what do you charge?”
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and if you’d like to begin the estate planning process with a lawyer and law firm who practice estate planning the right way please contact us today – we’d be excited to begin working with you.