I often get asked, “How much does it cost to do an estate plan?”
It’s difficult to answer that question without understanding more about your family, your situation, and explaining more about our process.
If you called a contractor and said, “I want to build a house. How much will it cost?” Would he be able to say right away? Not if he’s a good contractor. There are too many variables when it comes to building a house to quote a flat rate to build one. In the same way, the cost of an estate plan depends on the type of plan you create and the goals you are trying to accomplish.
We understand that you need to know the cost before making a decision (and we make sure ALL of our clients clearly know the cost before moving forward), but before you start talking about cost, there are some important questions to ask the attorney first, because there are other vitally important factors to consider when choosing an attorney to help create an effective estate plan.
Here are 12 questions to ask an Estate Planning attorney BEFORE Asking About Cost
1. Do you regularly deal with estate planning? What other areas of practice do you have? We believe it’s best if an attorney focuses on estate planning. That’s why I set up our firm the way I did. I wanted a group of people dedicated ONLY to estate planning so we could create the most effective plans possible for the families we serve.
2. How do you define estate planning? What is your counseling philosophy? Some attorneys see their primary role as filling in the blanks on a document. You’ll notice I sometimes use the phrase “Counselor-at-Law” after my name, and that’s important because it IS what we do. We help guide our clients to make the best choices possible for their unique situation.
3. How do you use technology to create customized wills and trusts? While it’s true you don’t want a boilerplate will (and some attorneys use technology to just fill in the blanks), there are things that technology can do to help us create better and more accurate plans for our clients.
4. Do you have a system in place to insure that each client is approached on an individual basis with their unique needs being addressed?
5. How can I be sure my plan will work the way I expect it to after I’m gone? It’s a dirty little secret of the industry, but many attorneys make their money after the plan they created doesn’t work properly and moves into probate.
6. Are you capable of supporting my choices in conversations with aging parents or adult children and grandchildren if I need it? Some of these conversations are very difficult. It helps to have an experienced 3rd party to help facilitate them.
7. How will you coordinate my assets and finances with my legal plan? Some attorneys help create a plan, but then don’t take the next step necessary to make sure the plan will work properly, and one of the most important aspects of this is asset coordination. It’s so important, we have TWO people in our office dedicated to it.
8. Will you work closely with my other advisors? In order to create the most effective plan possible, it is important that your financial advisors, CPAs, attorney, etc. work together to make sure everyone sees an accurate big picture so your plan can address everything it should.
9. How will I keep my estate plan up to date? Is it up to me to call you when I think I need to make changes? Or do you have a system to make sure my plan stays current?
10. What is your record with regards to probate? What percentage of your trust-based plans wind up in probate? (Remember #5 above?)
11. What happens if something happens to you? Are there other attorneys who will help? Do you have a contingency plan?
12. Do you have experienced staff to help with my planning? The staff will be key in your dealings with the firm, so you want them to be as top-notch as the attorney.
If you’re dealing with a top-notch professional — one who provides quality, custom services to each and every client and values integrity above all else — then they cannot give you an honest answer about how much it costs for an estate plan without a thorough assessment of your unique circumstances.
This is why we encourage everyone to attend our free upcoming seminar, “Don’t Leave Your Family At Risk!“ on Tuesday, May 8th at 6:00 pm EDT at City Gate Advisors in Greensboro, NC.
Not everyone is a good fit to work with us. We tend to do things differently around here, and we want to be sure people are comfortable with ALL aspects of planning before moving forward. The more you trust us and the better educated you are about planning, the better job we can do protecting you and your family.
If you’ve been thinking about planning, but are still hesitating, we encourage you to come to our next workshop. Just call (336) 373-9877 to save yourself a spot. And if you’ve already created a plan with us, but would like to encourage your friends or family to start planning, feel free to forward them this email or give us a review about what you liked on social media. This will help others gain the courage to get started.