Whatever your reason for seeking out professional estate planning help, eventually everyone wants to know, “How much is this going to cost?” Some ask the question earlier in the process than others. In fact, we regularly get calls from people who don’t ask about anything else.
The curiosity about price is understandable. Looking for legal help isn’t like other shopping experiences, where prices are publicly available and can be easily compared. And unlike other consumer products that you can look at, touch, and maybe try out, it can be difficult for a layperson to assess the quality of an estate plan. The lawyer who charges twice as much for his services as the competition may seem expensive. But what if the plan he gives you is three times as good? Hiring him would seem to be a “no brainer,” wouldn’t it, despite the higher price? To the untrained eye, however, one stack of legal documents can look an awful lot like any other, and finding the better value can be extremely difficult.
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Understandably, therefore, a lot of people end up relying largely, or exclusively, on price to make their decision. You know from your other shopping experiences, however, that the cheapest option is rarely the best value. Do you drive the cheapest car on the market? Do you live in the cheapest house you could find? How often do you select the cheapest restaurant when you go out to eat? In other buying situations, we know (and have probably had the misfortune to get reminded at least a few times) that the old saw about how “you get what you pay for” is usually true. What are the odds that the cheapest option is never the best one, except for when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones from the range of complex problems that can result from not having the right estate plan?
So… How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?
Without first learning more about your specific situation, we can’t tell you how much it would cost. Even coming up with a ballpark number is difficult. Like other major purchases, the price difference between the least expensive and most expensive estate planning options is significant. Frankly, you should be suspicious of anyone who tells you how much it will cost to create an estate plan for you without investigating your needs first.
What would you think if you walked into a car dealership and were told upon entry that a new car will cost you $35,000? Wouldn’t it seem weird that they hadn’t asked what kind of car you were looking for? Or what you plan to use it for? Or who will be driving it? Or how big your family is? Or how long you plan to keep it? Or how much you were planning to spend? Estate planning has at least as many variables as a car purchase, and the consequences of getting it wrong can be significantly larger. You shouldn’t expect less discussion with your attorney than you would have with your car salesman.
Our Pricing Policy
What we can tell you about our pricing is that, unlike a lot of attorneys:
- We understand that your planning priorities may be impacted by how much it will cost to satisfy them. For example, a certain planning option might appeal to you if it’s only 10% more than the next most expensive option, but not if it’s 50% more. You balance purchasing decisions like this all the time, and yet, believe it or not, there are a large number of lawyers who refuse to allow their clients to choose a cheaper option than what the lawyer recommends. We respect our clients’ ability to prioritize their goals and concerns, assess their risks after proper counseling, and make an appropriate decision for their peace of mind and their current financial circumstances.
- We do not push one particular plan for everybody. A lot of attorneys take the position that everyone needs a living trust. Trusts do have a lot of wonderful benefits. Benefits that a will alone cannot match. They are also more expensive to set up and maintain than a plan that utilizes a will alone. If the benefits that a trust provides aren’t particularly important to you, or if the cost of a trust doesn’t make sense for you right now given your current financial situation, we’ll work with you to determine what your best alternatives are and ensure you understand what you might be giving up by selecting the less expensive option.
- Our prices are flat fees, and we will show you what all of the options available to you cost. In other words, even if we do recommend one particular plan, we will tell you what less sophisticated options would cost so that you have a basis for determining whether the price makes sense to you in light of the benefits you will receive. When you do choose your plan, you will do so knowing there won’t be any surprise fees or costs down the road.
- We view the estate planning process as the beginning of a relationship, not a one-time transaction. Our goal is for you to finish the initial planning process feeling great about what you got and the price you paid for it, with the expectation that you will continue to see us as a trusted resource. Pressuring clients to buy a plan that with which they are not comfortable, and which may not be appropriate for them, would undermine that goal.
Where Do You Start?
If you are interested in discussing your planning options with us and determining how much they would cost, please give us a call. We will gather certain basic information from you over the phone, and then schedule a meeting at which we can discuss in detail your goals, concerns, and risks. At the end of that meeting, we will provide our recommendation for how to best to proceed, along with the exact price our recommendation will cost. You will not take any obligation to us until you have signed a fee agreement, specifying what we will be doing for you, and how much you will pay us to do it. Sound fair?
We look forward to hearing from you.