As an estate planning attorney, I find it odd that I rarely get the following question from the general public: “what are my estate planning options?” You would think that would be a basic question from people who are in the market for estate planning services. That just is not the case. However, I do get a lot of people asking me the following question: “how much do you charge for a will or trust?”
There is a quote I have heard that goes, “the power is in the question.” I really believe this quote can be valuable when you are doing your due diligence in hiring an estate planning attorney. The latter question, “how much do you charge for a will or trust?” has the potential to steer your planning to disaster. While the former question, “what are my planning options?” has the potential to steer your planning towards securing your family’s future and protecting your loved ones.
Why the dramatic difference in just one simple question? I will use a real life example to illustrate what I mean.
Bill Sample (i am protecting the names of the innocent), decides it is time to go shopping for a will because his college roommate died of a heart attack at age 45. He thinks to himself, if it could happen to Rob, it can happen to me and I better get the right documents in place. He does some basic research over the internet and sees that he can download a will off the internet for $79. He thinks about and decides to call an attorney instead as there may be some stuff that I may miss. He calls a local attorney and says: “My wife and I are interested in doing our wills, how much do you charge for each will?”
Attorney: I charge $250 for each simple will and an extra $150 for a power of attorney and medical directive form, when would you like to come in?
They schedule an appointment for next week, the couple comes in, the attorney obtains their basic information in an hour (name, address, kids names, approximate size of estate, executor’s name) and collects the money for the documents. A few weeks later, Bill and Mary Sample pick up the Wills, put them in their safe deposit box, and now Bill feels much better that he has done his “estate planning.” He feels has done the right thing for his family and now they can move on with their lives.
10 years later, Bill unexpectedly suffers a stroke. It is a terrible event that shocks the whole family. Even though this is a tragic event, at least Bill had the foresight to do estate planning for himself and his family. At least they have all the legal and financial issues covered, right?
I will continue with this story in my next post. . .