Cost of Estate Planning

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Gropes & Ray
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:28 am

Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gropes & Ray » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:03 am

I am curious, for those who used an attorney for estate planning, how much did it cost and how was the fee structured? For example, was it an hourly rate or a flat rate? Did you receive an estimate for a will separate from powers of attorney or trusts, etc., or just one lump sum estimate for the whole package? How would you prefer to be billed, hourly or flat?

Full disclosure: I want to expand my law practice to include estate planning, but I am debating the best fee structure and the appropriate fee. Thanks in advance!

jlcnuke
Posts: 434
Joined: Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:26 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by jlcnuke » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:07 am

My will, living will, financial power of attorney, and medical power of attorneys were a flat fee of $500.

My trust was a flat fee of $500 as well.

I liked the flat fee approach he used as I imagine that the hourly rate would be exorbitant to me knowing that much of it was "fill-in-the-blank" type work that a paralegal likely did and was just double-checked by the actual lawyer before signing the documents.

kmurp
Posts: 270
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:53 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by kmurp » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:25 am

Just did it. $1500

User avatar
JDCarpenter
Posts: 1389
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:42 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by JDCarpenter » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:30 am

Ours was hourly with one of the big South/SE regional firms that my partners use to practice at.

Been a while, so don't remember how much it was--but we were hyper-organized and knew what we wanted, so the amount didn't turn out to be too high; less than a thousand, for sure.

(included everything, but with portability, we weren't even close to having estate tax issues).
Edit Signature

mw1739
Posts: 472
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:44 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by mw1739 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:49 am

Two years ago we paid $650 in my medium COL area in the Midwest. It was a flat rate arrangement and included an initial meeting, several email questions and a meeting to finalize the documents. I'm guessing most was filled out by a paralegal, but I was pleased with the level of service for the modest fee. This is from what would probably rank as a medium size firm in my metro area, but probably the largest firm in my suburban county.

LarryAllen
Posts: 1031
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:41 am
Location: State of Confusion

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by LarryAllen » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:52 am

We in small city in California for reference. $2,500 +/- for a trust package is common. That is for an experienced estate planning attorney. Typically young attorney or general practitioner charge less. Paralegals and online forms even less. You find out after death if it was done right.

Gill
Posts: 4374
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:38 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gill » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:57 am

I don't see how people on Bogleheads can help you with this. So much depends on your skill level, experience and geographical location. I would think the prevailing hourly rate for estate planning in your location would be the controlling factor. Are you planning to acquire the requisite skills yourself or are you bringing in another attorney? Estate planning is not something you can learn in a weekend.
Gill

Admiral
Posts: 1163
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:35 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Admiral » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:41 pm

Totally geographically dependent. Rural lawyer will charge X, NYC shyster will charge 10X.

A competent estate lawyer can handle will and living will, and having everything paid into a trust is not difficult for a competent lawyer. Our estate is (or should I say would be, if we were dead) in the single-digit millions range, and the cost was $750 in our East Coast city.

If you're speaking of a $10m or higher estate with complex businesses attached, you'd pay more.

Gropes & Ray
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:28 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gropes & Ray » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:10 pm

Gill wrote:I don't see how people on Bogleheads can help you with this. So much depends on your skill level, experience and geographical location. I would think the prevailing hourly rate for estate planning in your location would be the controlling factor. Are you planning to acquire the requisite skills yourself or are you bringing in another attorney? Estate planning is not something you can learn in a weekend.
Gill
I figure I can learn estate planning in a weekend. Afterall, I got my law degree from a 6-week correspondence program.

3spots
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:54 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by 3spots » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:02 am

In greater Los Angeles area, $2500 for complete package for simple estate <$5M by experienced trust atty. I had a second quote for $2000.

User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 3230
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by lthenderson » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:29 am

Rural midwest: Will, living will, POA and MPOA was a flat rate of $250 for the entire package.

WannabeAgAlum
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:55 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by WannabeAgAlum » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:24 am

Wow! These prices seem dangerously low to me.

For those who have paid less than $3,000 for a revocable trust, will and powers of attorney for health care and finances, did your attorney include and/or advise you on the following issues:

1-beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance, POD and TOD accounts? if taxable retirement accounts aren't handled properly, it could mean large unnecessary income tax payable by your children based on not getting the "stretch out" distributions over their lifetimes. And no, it is not always as simple as just naming the trust as beneficiary. If your attorney didn't mention beneficiary designations or brushed them aside, or didn't fully coordinate them with your updated estate plan, they did you a disservice. For example, I know a guy whose retirement account made up 3/4 of his multi-million dollar estate. What should he care about more; his Will or the beneficiary designation for that large retirement account? Do you think his children care about whether they get to stretch out their withdrawals over their lifetimes, or whether they have to withdraw over 5 years? This becomes more of an issue if there is a deceased child whose children have to take distributions over aunt or uncle's lifetime and not their own.

2-pros/cons of keeping in trust for kids or having outright distributions? I know of a lady who stood to inherit millions outright, but who was going through bankruptcy at the designated age (e.g., 45), and so she didn't see a dime of her inheritance. Probably not what her mom wanted. Rarely does an outright distribution of a large amount of $ make sense to me. And if you don't think your kids will have creditor issues, take a look at divorce statistics. Is it 1 in 2 marriages that end in divorce?

3-For those who are married and could conceivably be over the estate tax exemptions at death, does your plan allow for the flexibility to defer the decision of whether to fund a credit shelter trust ("B" Trust) or a marital trust ("C" Trust), and thus either get the estate tax benefits of keeping credit shelter trust assets out of the survivor's estate or the income tax benefits of a step up in basis at the survivor's death? It is possible to have this decision made at the first death instead of years before when you sign your documents.

4-special needs/long term care issues; what flexibility is there for a child who stands to inherit but who is disabled? Who or what government entity will end up with that share?

5-is there a charitable distribution you are making to your favorite charity? If so, is this designated in your Will, or in your 401k or IRA beneficiary designation? If Will, then your attorney missed something big time.

6-if you own real estate in California, prop 13 issues?

Besides these, there are many more issues that you may not have thought to ask your attorney, and that your attorney may not have even thought of. This is more likely if the attorney does not focus exclusively on estate planning in his or her practice.

If you feel good about saving a few thousand bucks on your estate plan, good for you. It is more likely that the attorneys and/or Uncle Sam will get that back and much more if/when there is an issue at death. Many of these issues will go unnoticed, however, so maybe I'm getting all worked up over nothing.

Wannabe

bsteiner
Posts: 3326
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by bsteiner » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:25 pm

Gropes & Ray wrote:I am curious, for those who used an attorney for estate planning, how much did it cost and how was the fee structured? For example, was it an hourly rate or a flat rate? Did you receive an estimate for a will separate from powers of attorney or trusts, etc., or just one lump sum estimate for the whole package? How would you prefer to be billed, hourly or flat?

Full disclosure: I want to expand my law practice to include estate planning, but I am debating the best fee structure and the appropriate fee.
We generally work on a time basis, since the time needed for the same project can vary considerably from one client to another. However, we've done some work on a fixed fee basis. If your hourly rate is $x and you think a project will take y hours, you might be willing to quote a fixed fee of $xy (or perhaps 1.2 x $xy since (i) you're taking more risk, (ii) you often end up doing more work than you thought, and (iii) there's some self-selection as far as who asks about fixed fees).
jlcnuke wrote:My will, living will, financial power of attorney, and medical power of attorneys were a flat fee of $500.

My trust was a flat fee of $500 as well.

I liked the flat fee approach he used as I imagine that the hourly rate would be exorbitant to me knowing that much of it was "fill-in-the-blank" type work that a paralegal likely did and was just double-checked by the actual lawyer before signing the documents.


Presumably the fixed fee approximated what the fee would have been on a time basis.
WannabeAgAlum wrote:Wow! These prices seem dangerously low to me.

For those who have paid less than $3,000 for a revocable trust, will and powers of attorney for health care and finances, did your attorney include and/or advise you on the following issues: ....
Of course not. They weren't doing estate planning. As jlcnuke conceded, they were buying "fill-in-the-blank" documents.

That may be sufficient for many people. However, for the reasons you cited, and other reasons, there are people for whom that's not sufficient.

Gropes & Ray
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:28 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gropes & Ray » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:27 am

bsteiner wrote: We generally work on a time basis, since the time needed for the same project can vary considerably from one client to another. However, we've done some work on a fixed fee basis. If your hourly rate is $x and you think a project will take y hours, you might be willing to quote a fixed fee of $xy (or perhaps 1.2 x $xy since (i) you're taking more risk, (ii) you often end up doing more work than you thought, and (iii) there's some self-selection as far as who asks about fixed fees).
Part of my consideration is that my hourly rate is $225, and doing the $xy calculation probably puts me at a non-competitive price point. Of course, $225 is a fee I have worked up to over 6 years of practicing real estate, so maybe I need to reconsider my hourly expectation. I also recognize that I will become more proficient at estates as I gain experience, and the hours spent per client will shrink.

I appreciate the many thoughtful answers I have received. I am practicing in a mid-sized Midwestern city, and for the short-term, I am planning to associate with another attorney for complex or taxable estates.

User avatar
F150HD
Posts: 1521
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:49 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by F150HD » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:38 am

Gropes & Ray wrote: was it an hourly rate or a flat rate?
as a customer for something like this, I'd much prefer it's a flat rate.

Clearly people should expect that more complicated scenarios (kids, trusts, family owned business or properties etc) cost more...

WannabeAgAlum
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:55 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by WannabeAgAlum » Wed Apr 26, 2017 12:20 pm

bsteiner wrote:
WannabeAgAlum wrote:Wow! These prices seem dangerously low to me.

For those who have paid less than $3,000 for a revocable trust, will and powers of attorney for health care and finances, did your attorney include and/or advise you on the following issues: ....
Of course not. They weren't doing estate planning. As jlcnuke conceded, they were buying "fill-in-the-blank" documents.

That may be sufficient for many people. However, for the reasons you cited, and other reasons, there are people for whom that's not sufficient.

I was (and still am) under the impression that an attorney was consulted for all these plans, and the OP obviously asked for price quotes involving an attorney for estate planning. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly agree that for these prices there was little or nothing more than "fill-in-the-blank" going on.

S&L1940
Posts: 1578
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 11:19 pm
Location: South Florida

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by S&L1940 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 12:26 pm

Just did document updates and established revocable trust @ $1600, costs as follows:
Trust $750; Will (listed as "pour over will") $300; living will + health care surrogate + power of attorney $200; recording deed and incidental items (including courier to court house @ $25) another $350

Could have shopped around and saved bucks but, we were/are comfortable with the two face to face meetings we had for the updates as well as past experience with this lawyer
Don't it always seem to go * That you don't know what you've got * Till it's gone

User avatar
KlingKlang
Posts: 669
Joined: Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:26 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by KlingKlang » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:20 pm

My wife and I met with a (young) Elder Law attorney exactly one week ago for a free consultation. She works at a practice owned by a much older attorney. We live in Northeast Ohio. They hand you a flow chart that shows you all of their fixed price options:

(For my wife and myself)
Base wills, health care proxies, POAs, living wills - $795
Enhanced wills - $1595
Base revocable trusts - $3500
Enhanced revocable trusts - $5500
Irrevocable asset protection trust - $6500

I got the strong impression that they think that everyone no matter what their circumstances needs at least an enhanced revocable trust and that once we had purchased base wills there would be constant pressure to upgrade. For reference it seems like we could get the base will package from Legal Zoom for $249.

afan
Posts: 3566
Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:01 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by afan » Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:58 am

Interesting question of how an attorney with no expertise in estates and trusts becomes qualified to do this work.

The attorney we used was a litigator for years, cut way back to raise kids then returned to full time practice. She decided to go into estate planning so she got an LLM in taxation then joined a high profile boutique estate planning firm. By the time we got to her she was a name partner. She was not cheap but we were confident she knew what she was doing.

I can imagine one might be able to avoid the extra degree by starting out as an associate in an estate planning place, with more experienced people to turn to. By this route how much are clients paying for on the job training? I assume you cannot charge for attending CLE courses. Does one bill for studying on issues when a bsteiner would have known the answer (the correct answer) off the top of his head?

My skepticism arises from experience. We hired a lawyer who claimed to be an expert but was not. After a lot of money wasted and at least one terrible decision on his uneducated advice we had to hire someone else to clean up the mess. And he came so highly recommended....
We don't know how to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, and we don't know anyone that does know either | --Swedroe | We assume that markets are efficient, that prices are right | --Fama

bsteiner
Posts: 3326
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by bsteiner » Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:40 pm

KlingKlang wrote:My wife and I met with a (young) Elder Law attorney exactly one week ago for a free consultation. She works at a practice owned by a much older attorney. We live in Northeast Ohio. They hand you a flow chart that shows you all of their fixed price options:

(For my wife and myself)
Base wills, health care proxies, POAs, living wills - $795
Enhanced wills - $1595
Base revocable trusts - $3500
Enhanced revocable trusts - $5500
Irrevocable asset protection trust - $6500

I got the strong impression that they think that everyone no matter what their circumstances needs at least an enhanced revocable trust and that once we had purchased base wills there would be constant pressure to upgrade. For reference it seems like we could get the base will package from Legal Zoom for $249.
Why did you go to an elder law (Medicaid) attorney for an estate planning matter instead of a trusts and estates lawyer? While there's some overlap, for the most part they're different practice areas.

I don't know whether probating a Will or dealing with the probate courts in Ohio is difficult, expensive or burdensome. If it is. then they would probably suggest a revocable trust to most of their clients (or at least most of their older clients). If it's not, then they should only suggest one in the occasional case where there's some particular reason for doing so.

While I can guess the difference between their "basic" and "enhanced" categories, the cost of the drafting is about the same either way; and they should recommend what's appropriate for each case.

They may have to try to sell the more expensive categories. If they market free consultations, they'll attract people looking for free consultations. If, for example, each free consultation takes up $500 worth of their time, and 1/3 of the people who come in for free consultations end up buying something, then the cost of each matter has to include $1,500 to cover the cost of three free consultations.
afan wrote:Interesting question of how an attorney with no expertise in estates and trusts becomes qualified to do this work.

The attorney we used was a litigator for years, cut way back to raise kids then returned to full time practice. She decided to go into estate planning so she got an LLM in taxation then joined a high profile boutique estate planning firm. By the time we got to her she was a name partner. She was not cheap but we were confident she knew what she was doing.

I can imagine one might be able to avoid the extra degree by starting out as an associate in an estate planning place, with more experienced people to turn to. By this route how much are clients paying for on the job training? I assume you cannot charge for attending CLE courses. Does one bill for studying on issues when a bsteiner would have known the answer (the correct answer) off the top of his head? ...
Thanks for the kind words.

You raised the key question. How does the original poster learn this field? I think your examples are good. I think getting an LL.M. in taxation would be very helpful. NYU is the best known. Georgetown's is also well-regarded. There are others as well. I don't know if there are any in the Midwest. Ideally the original poster could take a year off and do it full-time. Alternatively the original poster could do it part-time while continuing to work, scheduling two classes a week on the same evening so as to only have to travel once a week. It' may also possible to do it online though the experience may not be the same.

Working in either a tax and trusts and estates boutique firm, or the trusts and estates department of a large firm, or the tax and trusts and estates department of a smaller firm that has a strong tax and trusts and estates practice, would also be helpful.

Other things to do include taking as many continuing legal education courses as possible in this area, reading publications such as Trusts & Estates, Estate Planning and Leimberg Information Services (LISI), http://leimbergservices.com, and joining the local Estate Planning Council (http://www.naepc.org).

Some of the larger banks and trust companies give or sell (for a modest price) sample Will and trust forms to lawyers. U.S. Trust's Practical Drafting is well-respected: http://www.ustrust.com/publish/content/ ... erform.pdf.

A real estate practice might be helpful in attracting clients. Commercial real estate clients make good estate planning clients (if they're willing to take time away from doing real estate deals to focus on their estate planning), since they tend to be wealthy, and since many estate planning techniques work well for real estate. Residential real estate clients tend to be larger in number, and people who buy a home are likely to be receptive to doing their estate planning at the same time.

Boats day
Posts: 49
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:39 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Boats day » Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:09 pm

$2500 for trust and all the other estate planning and heath care directives and all the other forms trust attorney recommended.

desiderium
Posts: 673
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:08 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by desiderium » Mon May 01, 2017 7:59 am

I believe something missing here is the value of the long-term relationship with an estate planning attorney or firm.

My initial encounter with my attorney was because we needed a will. 5 or 6 years later, our assets had changed and we went in for a review. We made a few adjustments and received a detailed and updated list of how to name beneficiaries for all our assets. 5 years later we read our will and there were some things that were obsolete, so we went in for an update. Each time we discussed changes to estate tax laws at the national and especially for us (WA) the state level. Along the way, the attorney has helped with several other minor family legal matters, initiated with a simple email.

Most of all, the attorney is the trusted contact person for when something happens to one or both of us. He has copies of our documents and our children know who he is. The documents are important, but the idea that someone I trust will be available to guide my family through what happens next is a source of real value.

Gropes & Ray
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:28 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gropes & Ray » Mon May 01, 2017 12:19 pm

afan wrote:Interesting question of how an attorney with no expertise in estates and trusts becomes qualified to do this work...

I can imagine one might be able to avoid the extra degree by starting out as an associate in an estate planning place, with more experienced people to turn to. By this route how much are clients paying for on the job training? I assume you cannot charge for attending CLE courses. Does one bill for studying on issues when a bsteiner would have known the answer (the correct answer) off the top of his head?
I wish there were a perfect way to assure everyone that they were maximum value for each dollar spent on legal services, but there is not. Law school teaches you practically nothing of actual substance, so the brand new associate who costs between $150-$300/hr, depending on the city and firm, is certainly charging some amount for on-the-job training. Major institutional clients have been known to demand that no associate with less than 3 years of experience touch their files, and that might make a lot of sense if you have the influence to enforce that rule, but that can backfire too if you get stuck with 7-8 year associates filling out LLC docs and filing for EINs. My good friend at BigLaw Houston bills about $750/hr, and while he is brilliant and hard working, he isn't 2x better than a first year at forming subsidiary corporations.

I would caution against believing that too many attorneys know everything "off the top of their head." Attorneys are trained to spot issues and research, not to memorize. Every attorney spends time reading newsletters, case law and statutes and attending seminars. You can recover the value of that time in two ways. First, you can consider it overhead, and include it in your hourly rate. Second, at firms with minimum hours requirements, there is a lot of pressure to divide that time up and add it to whichever projects you worked on that month. That can be ethical or not, depending on circumstances. If I am reading IRS publications and case law specific to horse breeding businesses because one of my clients has a tax issue related to a horse farm, certainly that client should be billed for the time. If I attend the yearly 3-day estate law update seminar in fancy resort town, I would call that overhead.

For myself, I have a real estate practice that largely focuses on oil and gas and related infrastructure investments. While I would gladly spend 100% of my time on oil and gas issues, the market cycle dictates how much the phone rings. I can spend a few hours a week drinking beer and waiting for the price of oil to hit $80/barrel, or I can start studying something else. I am fortunate that my particular situation does not require me to work with 97.5% billing efficiency, so it's not a big deal if I don't bill clients for my learning curve.

Old Guy
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:20 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Old Guy » Mon May 01, 2017 2:32 pm

I live in a relatively small island resort community in SC. We used a trust attorney on the island and it was very pricey; over $4,000, for separate trusts for my wife and I. My brother, who is mostly a criminal attorney in AL, was taken aback by that price. We had previously gone to another trust attorney, the daughter, an associate, of the firm's owner, and she was also over $4,000.

The state just changed the medical power of attorney document adopting a model but adding unique terms. It cost us over $500 for two new POAs and having them registered with the county.

HIinvestor
Posts: 1540
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:23 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by HIinvestor » Mon May 01, 2017 8:17 pm

As this thread shows, "it depends." Our personal banker said the attorneys the bank recommended would do all our estate docs for $1000 or less. My relative who is Coro counsel for a bank recommended the son of the late probate judge who gave us a quote of $3500 or so. We really liked him and he has been willing to help us clear title to some property that had several deceased folks on it at no extra charge. He was also willing to talk to the CA estate attorney of a relative without any extra charge.

We are pleased with the excellent service we received from this experienced attorney and are happy we didn't go with the "low bid" unknown to us attorneys recommended by the bank.

johnra
Posts: 159
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:07 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by johnra » Mon May 01, 2017 11:16 pm

As I recall, the total was ~$3500. Maybe the best $3500 my wife and I have spent. For this, we protected our disabled daughter through state conservatorship, created a special needs trust for her, created our own trusts (revocable and irrevocable), and clarified advanced directives. What is the purpose of all this Boglehead investing? The answer is security, not just financial, and now we have this for us, our daughter, and the rest of our kids. It is a very good feeling indeed.

User avatar
celia
Posts: 7892
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 6:32 am
Location: SoCal

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by celia » Tue May 02, 2017 4:38 am

WannabeAgAlum wrote:Wow! These prices seem dangerously low to me.

For those who have paid less than $3,000 for a revocable trust, will and powers of attorney for health care and finances, did your attorney include and/or advise you on the following issues:

1-beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance, POD and TOD accounts?...

2-pros/cons of keeping in trust for kids or having outright distributions?...

3-For those who are married and could conceivably be over the estate tax exemptions at death, ...

4-special needs/long term care issues; what flexibility is there for a child who stands to inherit but who is disabled? Who or what government entity will end up with that share?

5-is there a charitable distribution you are making to your favorite charity? If so, is this designated in your Will, or in your 401k or IRA beneficiary designation? If Will, then your attorney missed something big time.

6-if you own real estate in California, prop 13 issues?
Our estate documents were drawn up over 25 years ago as a package deal ($800, I think) and I think all of this was addressed, except prop 13. But there wasn't such a huge difference between property tax back then for those who owned the property for a long time compared to more recent buyers. Yes, the difference between our taxes and the new neighbors' is huge these days, but I don't fault the lawyers for that since it wasn't much of an issue back then.

So how did they do it for a low fixed price, you ask? At the time we were doing this, many others were too and there were "free seminars" (aka sales presentations) presented by the lawyers in a hotel meeting room. The presentation was quite professional, and 50 people could learn the basics that you listed at the same time. If you decided to not get the documents, there wasn't any pressure, as you were just another attendee and the lawyers didn't spend any extra time with you.

Yes, we realized the lawyer was using fill-in-the blank software back then, but he also customized some sections for us. (They are more awkwardly written than the software-generated sections.) I think we had 3 total meetings with the lawyer, one to figure out our situation, one to present the rough draft that we then took home and commented on the areas that weren't quite right, and the final copy presentation. We were also given a binder with fill-in-the-blank form letters for various types of accounts, that we used to direct the banks, investment firms, insurance companies for how to re-title our accounts. It was up to us to send them in and request a confirmation that the change was made. This also was basically the same for every customer. Even if they didn't have a xxx-type of account, they still got the re-titling directions since they may get that type of account in the future.

The only problem I saw is that we listed a successor trustee and 5 back-ups. The lawyer insisted we have a trust company as the final successor trustee in case none of our trustee relatives could be found. The trust company would always be there. Right.... The last time I looked all the relatives were still living at the same address that was listed for them, except for one who has died. But the trust company could not be found. It apparently was bought out by another trust company, which also cannot be found. :annoyed But now that our kids are adults, they can select a trustee if none of them are willing to do it as listed.

Gemini
Posts: 910
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 8:10 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gemini » Wed May 03, 2017 4:35 pm

desiderium wrote:I believe something missing here is the value of the long-term relationship with an estate planning attorney or firm.

My initial encounter with my attorney was because we needed a will. 5 or 6 years later, our assets had changed and we went in for a review. We made a few adjustments and received a detailed and updated list of how to name beneficiaries for all our assets. 5 years later we read our will and there were some things that were obsolete, so we went in for an update. Each time we discussed changes to estate tax laws at the national and especially for us (WA) the state level. Along the way, the attorney has helped with several other minor family legal matters, initiated with a simple email.

Most of all, the attorney is the trusted contact person for when something happens to one or both of us. He has copies of our documents and our children know who he is. The documents are important, but the idea that someone I trust will be available to guide my family through what happens next is a source of real value
.
Good point. What if the attorney is older and not around any more for whatever reason? Does one get assigned an attorney from the firm? In case of a solo practitioner, you have no choice but to head somewhere else. Curious to see if this scenario has played out with anyone here.

Should a consumer keep age in mind when picking an estate attorney as undoubtedly changes will need to be implemented? Catch 22 as experience will be lacking if one goes with a "younger" fellow

Gropes & Ray
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:28 am

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by Gropes & Ray » Wed May 03, 2017 5:55 pm

Gemini wrote:
Good point. What if the attorney is older and not around any more for whatever reason? Does one get assigned an attorney from the firm? In case of a solo practitioner, you have no choice but to head somewhere else. Curious to see if this scenario has played out with anyone here.

Should a consumer keep age in mind when picking an estate attorney as undoubtedly changes will need to be implemented? Catch 22 as experience will be lacking if one goes with a "younger" fellow
Every attorney is supposed to have someone lined up to hand matters off to in the event of something unexpected. Even solos should have someone lined up. I wouldn't let age steer me away from an attorney who I like and trust.

artgerst
Posts: 158
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:34 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by artgerst » Wed May 03, 2017 8:23 pm

I know the OP was asking for those who use an attorney (which I'm not one of them), but my response may help in some way.

I'm still very "untrusting" of the estate planning process and haven't taken the next step into getting a lawyer for estate planning or specific documents (I do have a will, living will, an advanced directive that I created with Quicken software since the documents are easy to read and make sense to me). As someone else has mentioned, you don't know if the job was done right with trusts and other lawyer created documents until you die. Here's what I'm struggling with:

- Fiduciary responsibility. Now if I go to a lawyer and ask for estate planning, will I actually get directed towards the right set of required documents for my situation? I have read countless articles and several books on the subject of whether or not you need a revocable trust. I feel like the jury is still out in many cases. Will the lawyer do right by me or just upsell me? How do I really know if I'm getting the right solution without going to 'n' number of lawyers and comparing results? Do they really care to reach out to you if something in your life changes that might impact your estate?
- I have spoken with friends who have revocable trusts and they all say the same thing "I have this really large document of 100's or 1000's of pages. Not exactly sure what in them. I went through the main points with the lawyer.". How would I feel confident after getting one of those large documents that probably has a ton of legalese?
- How can you determine appropriate cost? Is it based on consultation (where the results are debatable) or physical documents (which, I assume, are mostly generated from software)? Why would someone say that paying less than $3000 is strange? I don't understand that rationale. To me that sounds equivalent to paying less than 100 basis points for a financial advisor means you are not getting the best investments.
- How do you measure "success"? Does anyone ask for information on how an estate turned out with the lawyer's documents after death? Isn't that the real measure?

Admittedly I probably know less than most on these boards about this subject, but I just want to point out the strangeness of so many people trusting an unknown person with their estate without knowing their success rate. I'm not trying to bash the profession or the importance of an estate plan, just the way to quantify or qualify a good one.

millennialfalcon
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2016 8:59 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by millennialfalcon » Wed May 03, 2017 8:48 pm

artgerst wrote:I know the OP was asking for those who use an attorney (which I'm not one of them), but my response may help in some way.

I'm still very "untrusting" of the estate planning process and haven't taken the next step into getting a lawyer for estate planning or specific documents (I do have a will, living will, an advanced directive that I created with Quicken software since the documents are easy to read and make sense to me). As someone else has mentioned, you don't know if the job was done right with trusts and other lawyer created documents until you die.
I really appreciate your perspective. It sounds like you've really done your homework. Given that the lawyer-client relationship fundamentally depends on trust for any type of matter, this is particularly sobering. I know you are not alone in this sentiment.
artgerst wrote: - I have spoken with friends who have revocable trusts and they all say the same thing "I have this really large document of 100's or 1000's of pages. Not exactly sure what in them. I went through the main points with the lawyer.". How would I feel confident after getting one of those large documents that probably has a ton of legalese?
- How can you determine appropriate cost? Is it based on consultation (where the results are debatable) or physical documents (which, I assume, are mostly generated from software)? Why would someone say that paying less than $3000 is strange? I don't understand that rationale. To me .
I am of the opinion (this is not legal advice) that trusts are oversold in most instances. It may just be the whole-life insurance of the lawyers-who-draft-wills business. In my state, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense for most people to do revocable living trust planning. Probate with a valid will drafted by an attorney is relatively inexpensive and quick. And a will that an attorney drafts should have contingent trusts built in for minors and other incapacitated people.

Final point on this that gets back to the OP: it is really difficult for consumers of legal services to price estate planning. One such reason is I do not believe enough lawyers are upfront about what planning "most folks" need taking into account their state's idiosyncrasies and then describe a menu of services with cost. I favor a planning package (a collection of documents including wills and powers of attorney etc.) for a fixed fee. Same for a standard revocable living trust for a somewhat higher fixed fee. Anything else? Hourly.

bsteiner
Posts: 3326
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by bsteiner » Mon May 08, 2017 5:00 pm

millennialfalcon wrote:
artgerst wrote:I know the OP was asking for those who use an attorney (which I'm not one of them), but my response may help in some way.

I'm still very "untrusting" of the estate planning process and haven't taken the next step into getting a lawyer for estate planning or specific documents (I do have a will, living will, an advanced directive that I created with Quicken software since the documents are easy to read and make sense to me). As someone else has mentioned, you don't know if the job was done right with trusts and other lawyer created documents until you die.
I really appreciate your perspective. It sounds like you've really done your homework. Given that the lawyer-client relationship fundamentally depends on trust for any type of matter, this is particularly sobering. I know you are not alone in this sentiment.
artgerst wrote: - I have spoken with friends who have revocable trusts and they all say the same thing "I have this really large document of 100's or 1000's of pages. Not exactly sure what in them. I went through the main points with the lawyer.". How would I feel confident after getting one of those large documents that probably has a ton of legalese?

- How can you determine appropriate cost? Is it based on consultation (where the results are debatable) or physical documents (which, I assume, are mostly generated from software)? Why would someone say that paying less than $3000 is strange? I don't understand that rationale. To me .
I am of the opinion (this is not legal advice) that trusts are oversold in most instances. It may just be the whole-life insurance of the lawyers-who-draft-wills business. In my state, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense for most people to do revocable living trust planning. Probate with a valid will drafted by an attorney is relatively inexpensive and quick. And a will that an attorney drafts should have contingent trusts built in for minors and other incapacitated people.

Final point on this that gets back to the OP: it is really difficult for consumers of legal services to price estate planning. One such reason is I do not believe enough lawyers are upfront about what planning "most folks" need taking into account their state's idiosyncrasies and then describe a menu of services with cost. I favor a planning package (a collection of documents including wills and powers of attorney etc.) for a fixed fee. Same for a standard revocable living trust for a somewhat higher fixed fee. Anything else? Hourly.
As to artgerst's comments, at a low price, you're not getting much in the way of consultation. The price doesn't allow for that. You're mainly buying documents. However, for many if not most people, that may be sufficient, and in any event they might not be interested in anything more. Most of the time it probably works out satisfactorily. Most people's children won't have taxable estates, won't get divorced, won't outlive their spouses and remarry, and won't go into a nursing home and want Medicaid. Even if one of those things might happen, some people may not want to pay more than the cost of "standard" documents in order to protect against these things.

To the extent the documents are "standard," it may be easier to do them on a fixed fee basis. However, to the extent the documents reflect planning, it's harder to do them on a fixed fee, since a greater part of the fee reflects the planning, and that can vary considerably from one client to another depending upon the client's decision making process.

Revocable trusts are certainly overhyped and oversold. In some way the analogy to whole life insurance is a good one -- it's a way for some lawyers to sell something that's not necessarily needed. However, in other ways, the analogy isn't a perfect one. First, revocable trusts make sense in some cases, and in some states. (It might be helpful to know in what state the original poster is located.) Second, unlike whole life, even if there's no reason to create a revocable trust in a given case, the stakes are relatively modest -- it will cost a little more to create the revocable trust, but it may save a little effort later on. The biggest problem is that it tends to be a distraction. People get distracted by the concept, and don't deal with the substantive issues. That seems to happen frequently here -- as in this thread, estate planning threads often get hijacked into a discussion of revocable trusts even if they have nothing to do with the initial question.

Back to the original poster's question -- how does he/she add estate planning to his/her practice? I don't know anything about oil and gas leases, or whether there's any synergy between oil and gas leases and estate planning. To begin with, the original poster might want to get an LL.M. in taxation, attend CLE programs in estate planning, join the local Estate Planning Council, and join and become active in bar association sections and committees dealing with estate planning at the local, state and American Bar Association levels. If his/her firm doesn't have a tax and trusts and estates practice, he/she might join a firm that has a good tax and trusts and estates practice.

WannabeAgAlum
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:55 pm

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by WannabeAgAlum » Mon May 08, 2017 11:52 pm

bsteiner wrote:
millennialfalcon wrote:
artgerst wrote:I know the OP was asking for those who use an attorney (which I'm not one of them), but my response may help in some way.

I'm still very "untrusting" of the estate planning process and haven't taken the next step into getting a lawyer for estate planning or specific documents (I do have a will, living will, an advanced directive that I created with Quicken software since the documents are easy to read and make sense to me). As someone else has mentioned, you don't know if the job was done right with trusts and other lawyer created documents until you die.
I really appreciate your perspective. It sounds like you've really done your homework. Given that the lawyer-client relationship fundamentally depends on trust for any type of matter, this is particularly sobering. I know you are not alone in this sentiment.
artgerst wrote: - I have spoken with friends who have revocable trusts and they all say the same thing "I have this really large document of 100's or 1000's of pages. Not exactly sure what in them. I went through the main points with the lawyer.". How would I feel confident after getting one of those large documents that probably has a ton of legalese?

- How can you determine appropriate cost? Is it based on consultation (where the results are debatable) or physical documents (which, I assume, are mostly generated from software)? Why would someone say that paying less than $3000 is strange? I don't understand that rationale. To me .
I am of the opinion (this is not legal advice) that trusts are oversold in most instances. It may just be the whole-life insurance of the lawyers-who-draft-wills business. In my state, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense for most people to do revocable living trust planning. Probate with a valid will drafted by an attorney is relatively inexpensive and quick. And a will that an attorney drafts should have contingent trusts built in for minors and other incapacitated people.

Final point on this that gets back to the OP: it is really difficult for consumers of legal services to price estate planning. One such reason is I do not believe enough lawyers are upfront about what planning "most folks" need taking into account their state's idiosyncrasies and then describe a menu of services with cost. I favor a planning package (a collection of documents including wills and powers of attorney etc.) for a fixed fee. Same for a standard revocable living trust for a somewhat higher fixed fee. Anything else? Hourly.
As to artgerst's comments, at a low price, you're not getting much in the way of consultation. The price doesn't allow for that. You're mainly buying documents. However, for many if not most people, that may be sufficient, and in any event they might not be interested in anything more. Most of the time it probably works out satisfactorily. Most people's children won't have taxable estates, won't get divorced, won't outlive their spouses and remarry, and won't go into a nursing home and want Medicaid. Even if one of those things might happen, some people may not want to pay more than the cost of "standard" documents in order to protect against these things.

To the extent the documents are "standard," it may be easier to do them on a fixed fee basis. However, to the extent the documents reflect planning, it's harder to do them on a fixed fee, since a greater part of the fee reflects the planning, and that can vary considerably from one client to another depending upon the client's decision making process.

Revocable trusts are certainly overhyped and oversold. In some way the analogy to whole life insurance is a good one -- it's a way for some lawyers to sell something that's not necessarily needed. However, in other ways, the analogy isn't a perfect one. First, revocable trusts make sense in some cases, and in some states. (It might be helpful to know in what state the original poster is located.) Second, unlike whole life, even if there's no reason to create a revocable trust in a given case, the stakes are relatively modest -- it will cost a little more to create the revocable trust, but it may save a little effort later on. The biggest problem is that it tends to be a distraction. People get distracted by the concept, and don't deal with the substantive issues. That seems to happen frequently here -- as in this thread, estate planning threads often get hijacked into a discussion of revocable trusts even if they have nothing to do with the initial question.

Back to the original poster's question -- how does he/she add estate planning to his/her practice? I don't know anything about oil and gas leases, or whether there's any synergy between oil and gas leases and estate planning. To begin with, the original poster might want to get an LL.M. in taxation, attend CLE programs in estate planning, join the local Estate Planning Council, and join and become active in bar association sections and committees dealing with estate planning at the local, state and American Bar Association levels. If his/her firm doesn't have a tax and trusts and estates practice, he/she might join a firm that has a good tax and trusts and estates practice.

Agree with most of this. Disagree with comment "Most people's children won't have taxable estates, won't get divorced, won't outlive their spouses and remarry, and won't go into a nursing home and want Medicaid."

Divorce alone happens to 40-50% of couples, and rate is higher for 2nd marriages, according to American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/). Plus there are many other types of creditors that people deal with regularly. I think most people's kids will deal with one or more of these things.

I believe most people would be interested in these added benefits of they took the time and $ to understand them which involves consulting with a qualified attorney. But most people don't want to. Same goes for other issues that often get glossed over.

The best and quickest way to learn this area as an attorney is to work with an experienced and competent estate planning group. LLM is worth the $ if you need it to get in the door with such a group. I'm not sure most clients care about the LLM or even know what it is.

Wannabe

bsteiner
Posts: 3326
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:39 pm
Location: NYC/NJ/FL

Re: Cost of Estate Planning

Post by bsteiner » Tue May 09, 2017 8:47 am

WannabeAgAlum wrote:... Agree with most of this [my post just above this one, not quoted here due to its length]. Disagree with comment "Most people's children won't have taxable estates, won't get divorced, won't outlive their spouses and remarry, and won't go into a nursing home and want Medicaid."

Divorce alone happens to 40-50% of couples, and rate is higher for 2nd marriages, according to American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/). Plus there are many other types of creditors that people deal with regularly. I think most people's kids will deal with one or more of these things.

I believe most people would be interested in these added benefits of they took the time and $ to understand them which involves consulting with a qualified attorney. But most people don't want to. Same goes for other issues that often get glossed over.

The best and quickest way to learn this area as an attorney is to work with an experienced and competent estate planning group. LLM is worth the $ if you need it to get in the door with such a group. I'm not sure most clients care about the LLM or even know what it is.
Our clients generally provide for their clients in trust rather than outright, to obtain these protections. However, from the posts in this thread, many people want something at a modest cost that covers the basics.

If the original poster wants to get a sense of what trusts and estates is about (preparing Wills is a relatively small part of it), he/she might want to take a look at this current thread that discusses some of the issues that come up:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=208123&newpost=3361605.

Post Reply