I originally wrote and posted this in August of 2009 but it somehow disappeared from my blog! As a colleague recently reproduced and linked to it, I thought I should update and republish it as the song remains the same.
“How Much Does A Simple Will Cost?”
This is the #1 question for most estate planning attorneys and it’s also one of the most challenging for us to answer. A Will is not (or at least should not be!) a commodity, and the process of creating an estate plan should not be akin to purchasing a flat screen TV.
There are very inexpensive Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) type Will-drafting software packages for sale in office supply and box stores (about $30-50), relatively inexpensive online Will drafting services (about $100), fresh out-of-law-school newbies and many general practice lawyers who will be happy to fill in some form documents and churn out a run-of-the-mill, bare bones, basic Will for anywhere between $500 and $1,000 for a couple.
The trouble with all of these is that if you have any special circumstances in your life whatsoever or need any professional guidance, these will not serve your interests. There are other legal instruments that are often more critically important to people than Wills, but if all they think they need is a simple will and they don’t get proper guidance, they never learn that. Furthermore, if you go through the trouble and don’t properly execute the legal instruments, they aren’t worth the paper on which you print them. With these options there is also little to no legal counseling to help you make the best decisions to accomplish your individual goals and objectives and spare you and your loved ones the headaches and hassles of a failed plan.
An estate plan needs to be a living breathing thing that gets reevaluated periodically and regularly as your life’s circumstances change to ensure that it is still accomplishing what you want, protecting what’s most important to you, and doesn’t become a worthless pile of paper. My approach to estate planning involves developing meaningful, lifetime relationships with my clients and providing them an exceptional level of personalized service and professional counseling, all in a very relaxed and friendly way.
While I believe my fees are competitive for my area, I am sure that I charge neither the least nor the most expensive fees around for estate planning legal services. The temptation for all of us is strong to try to save money by shopping around for the best deal. It is of critical importance, however, to be able to compare apples to apples. I only charge within a set range of flat rate fees to which my clients agree fully informed after we’ve looked at what their current family and financial circumstances are, what they want to accomplish in creating an estate plan in the first place, and what is most important to them in that process. I can accept credit card payments, set up payment plans, and help make it as affordable as possible, but what I do not want to be, as a colleague once put it, is the Walmart of Wills. “I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed.” (John Cusack/Say Anything, anyone?) But seriously, I have no desire to mass-produce shoddy documents at discounted prices without caring about whether that is really what my clients need.
I do want to provide a very high level of personal service in an ongoing working relationship as my clients’ trusted family advisor. And if, as has happened on more than one occasion, we become friends as well, that’s just icing on the cake. I’ve worked hard to develop a great professional network of financial advisors, insurance professionals, and others to be able to work as a team to ensure that my clients are taken care of in the best way possible. I also have relationships with local real estate brokers, bankers, mortgage brokers, and lawyers who practice areas of the law, in which I do not, including family and criminal law. It is my pleasure to refer my clients to those other professionals whom I personally know, trust, and to whom I have and would turn again for my family’s needs.