When a prospective client calls me, it is usually because I have been recommended by a former client, family member, friend, financial adviser, or other attorney. Therefore, it is unusual that the first question some people ask is – ‘how much do you charge for ___ (fill in the blank)?’ Like any other relationship, working with an attorney necessitates a good, trusting relationship. Both sides (the client and attorney) need to work well together to achieve the client’s goals. Therefore, the first priority for any person is to find an attorney whom he/she/they likes and trusts.
So, why ask about money right at the start of the interaction? Frankly, as I tell prospective clients who call me – and then ask about my fees as a first question – you will find other attorneys who charge less – and those who charge more. An ‘inexpensive’ attorney who does a poor job on meeting a client’s needs and drafting these important documents will cost you and your estate more money in the long run and, worse than that, frustrate your estate plans by not ensuring that your plan is in place. Many clients have come to me and shown me poorly drafted documents which they do not understand and which do not fulfill their wishes (including disinheriting family members and giving assets as they wish.) Clearly, paying very little does not ensure a proper result.
Recently, a prospective client came to me and showed me a very poorly worded Last Will and Testament. The client told me that the high-powered attorney recommended by his friend charged more than twice what I usually charge, that he did not understand the document, and that he had concerns about whether the Will was executed properly. So, just like paying too little, paying too much is not a good thing either.
Again, the key to the decision of which attorney to choose is to find the attorney whom you like, trust, and whom you think understands you and your plan.