Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

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WL2034
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Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:41 pm

Hoping to get some general recommendations on this situation. (I.E. is this reasonable or too much for what we need?)

My wife and I have our first child now, so we are looking to do the responsible thing and have a will made. I don't know much of anything regarding the terminologies of wills, trusts, etc. This is our info and what we are trying to accomplish.

Ages: 33-35
NW: $1-1.2 MM (approx. 25% her 401k/IRA, 25% his 401k/IRA, 50% joint taxable accounts). No real estate. No pre-marital assets, everything shared.
Children: 1 (likely ~1 more to come)
Employment: Both employed, salaries ~ $250k-$350k.
Life insurance: $3MM each.

1. If one of us died, the other would, of course, be guardian of the child(ren) and would receive all the assets (we are beneficiaries on each other's retirement accounts and life insurance).

2. If both of us died at the same time, we would want to:
-designate a guardian
-make sure that all of our assets and life insurance money goes to our child(ren). I'm assuming we may need a trust for this so that they don't inherit $4+MM while still children (or even at age 18)?
-- This scenario is the most important to us.

3. If our entire family including child(ren) died simultaneously, we would divide the assets and insurance between our families equally (this scenario is not as important to us).


Just as a ballpark, how much should we be looking to spend on this? We are not in a HCOL area. We are willing to spend the money to have it done correctly. Typically, I am a DIY person to save the money, but in this case we will be using a professional. The question is, how expensive of a professional. We have a quote from a well-regarded estate planning attorney from a local firm at $260/hr with "ballpark" expected fees of $1000 for a "very simple will", $2000 if it "includes setting up a trust", and $3000 for "more complicated issues." So here is the question, which one of these cases do we fit into? I'm guessing the $2000 scenario, and probably will need to have it revised in the future as our family and assets (real estate, likely) change.

I've seen posts on here about wills by an attorney for $500-$750, so I'm wondering if our situation is simple enough that spending $2000+ is overkill in this scenario, or a reasonable fee. And at what point is it reasonable to have a firm quote instead of just knowing the hourly rate? After the initial meeting and questionnaire?

Thanks!

Gill
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by Gill » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:48 pm

Based on the structure and nature of your assets and the planning needs for your family situation, $2,000 would seem to be a reasonable fee. I would not attempt to obtain a firm quote because the attorney does not know the complexities that might arise and would likely quote on the high side.
Gill

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gunn_show
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by gunn_show » Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:55 pm

Gill wrote:Based on the structure and nature of your assets and the planning needs for your family situation, $2,000 would seem to be a reasonable fee. I would not attempt to obtain a firm quote because the attorney does not know the complexities that might arise and would likely quote on the high side.
Gill
Agree with this. Also if you are both employed by big firms, look into employer sponsored plans for legal. Didn't know until recently that my company offers Hyatt Legal Plans for a small monthly cost, and all things like wills, trust, exactly what you are doing, are covered under that. Look into it.
"I love competition. And I want to win." R. Murdoch

WL2034
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:09 pm

gunn_show wrote:
Gill wrote:Based on the structure and nature of your assets and the planning needs for your family situation, $2,000 would seem to be a reasonable fee. I would not attempt to obtain a firm quote because the attorney does not know the complexities that might arise and would likely quote on the high side.
Gill
Agree with this. Also if you are both employed by big firms, look into employer sponsored plans for legal. Didn't know until recently that my company offers Hyatt Legal Plans for a small monthly cost, and all things like wills, trust, exactly what you are doing, are covered under that. Look into it.

Thanks for the tip. I just looked into it and found out, that I actually do have some legal benefits through my employer. However, it doesn't sound as good as your plan. My benefits are through a 3rd party agency. When I call the 800 number, they took my information and zip code and gave me the name of an attorney who "does wills." When I look on his website, he practices mostly criminal and family law. The agency tells me they can only give me one name at a time in order to apply my benefits. They can't give me the entire panel of attorneys available for me to search the list online and choose one. Essentially, this panel of attorneys has agreed to be part of this nationwide discount plan through this agency, but the agency can't give out the full list of attorneys--just one name at a time. If you meet with them for 30 minutes and don't choose to use them, you can have another name. Kind of strange.

My benefits are:
-a free 30 minute consultation
-25% off of any fees (I am to tell the attorney I am a member of this agency and they are to honor my membership by charging lower fees)

I'm wondering if this benefit through work is worth it in this case. It sounds like I won't be getting an attorney who practices primarily estate law.

Gill
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by Gill » Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:18 pm

I would forget about using an attorney through this plan and seek out an experienced trusts and estates attorney.
Gill

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gunn_show
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by gunn_show » Tue Aug 01, 2017 7:22 pm

WL2034 wrote: I'm wondering if this benefit through work is worth it in this case. It sounds like I won't be getting an attorney who practices primarily estate law.
Well that's a bummer aye

Agree with Gill, would then go back and focus on attorney specializing in this field. The Hyatt Plan through Metlife lets you pick from any listed attorney on the website locator map, which for me includes a lot of very well respected (and pricey $$$) attorneys in my area, and was able to select someone I was familiar with from a family member's trust. Sounds like you do not have that option, so it is perhaps not worth the discount for you. Go with a trusted and reliable pro, worth the cost.
"I love competition. And I want to win." R. Murdoch

bsteiner
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by bsteiner » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:47 pm

WL2034 wrote:... Ages: 33-35
NW: $1-1.2 MM (approx. 25% her 401k/IRA, 25% his 401k/IRA, 50% joint taxable accounts). No real estate. No pre-marital assets, everything shared.
Children: 1 (likely ~1 more to come)
Employment: Both employed, salaries ~ $250k-$350k.
Life insurance: $3MM each.

1. If one of us died, the other would, of course, be guardian of the child(ren) and would receive all the assets (we are beneficiaries on each other's retirement accounts and life insurance).

2. If both of us died at the same time, we would want to:
...
-make sure that all of our assets and life insurance money goes to our child(ren). I'm assuming we may need a trust for this so that they don't inherit $4+MM while still children (or even at age 18)? ...

Just as a ballpark, how much should we be looking to spend on this? We are not in a HCOL area. We are willing to spend the money to have it done correctly. Typically, I am a DIY person to save the money, but in this case we will be using a professional. The question is, how expensive of a professional. We have a quote from a well-regarded estate planning attorney from a local firm at $260/hr with "ballpark" expected fees of $1000 for a "very simple will", $2000 if it "includes setting up a trust", and $3000 for "more complicated issues." So here is the question, which one of these cases do we fit into? I'm guessing the $2000 scenario, and probably will need to have it revised in the future as our family and assets (real estate, likely) change.

I've seen posts on here about wills by an attorney for $500-$750, so I'm wondering if our situation is simple enough that spending $2000+ is overkill in this scenario, or a reasonable fee. ...
Life insurance counts as cash for this purpose, since it becomes cash at your death. So you have a combined estate of over $7 million.

The main question is whether someone at this level who does $1,000 simple Wills is used to dealing with $7 million estates. If so, and if he/she can do a good job, then it sounds like a good deal at either of the other numbers mentioned.

You said what you would want if you both died at the same time. Have you considered what you want if you both die at different times?

Some questions would be whether the lawyer knows not to limit or mandate distributions from the children's trusts so as to maximize flexibility, how to give the children effective control over their trusts at a specified age, and to include a parallel set of trusts in your Will to receive the retirement benefits (and whether the cost includes that).
Gill wrote:... I would not attempt to obtain a firm quote because the attorney does not know the complexities that might arise and would likely quote on the high side.
I agree. Another factor that the lawyer has to take into account in setting a fixed fee is that people who want a fixed fee tend to require more time for the same project than the average client.

WL2034
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:08 pm

Thanks, everyone, for the advice.

The initial attorney we were considering is a partner at a reputable local law firm with 20-30 attorneys in the firm (listed on the website). We received the recommendation from co-workers who have (very likely) greater assets than we do.

He specializes in estate planning, trust administration, and creates comprehensive estate plans for individuals and families.

I'm assuming he will be well versed in dealing with an estate of this size and larger. As for the other attorney that was available from my discount lawyer plan from work, he was in a 3 person law firm and nobody at that office specializes in estate law according to the website. I'm not sure but probably they don't have many clients with as many assets (based on the location of the office).

We are going to use the initial attorney we considered. Thanks again.

JBTX
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by JBTX » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:25 pm

WL2034 wrote:Hoping to get some general recommendations on this situation. (I.E. is this reasonable or too much for what we need?)

My wife and I have our first child now, so we are looking to do the responsible thing and have a will made. I don't know much of anything regarding the terminologies of wills, trusts, etc. This is our info and what we are trying to accomplish.

Ages: 33-35
NW: $1-1.2 MM (approx. 25% her 401k/IRA, 25% his 401k/IRA, 50% joint taxable accounts). No real estate. No pre-marital assets, everything shared.
Children: 1 (likely ~1 more to come)
Employment: Both employed, salaries ~ $250k-$350k.
Life insurance: $3MM each.

1. If one of us died, the other would, of course, be guardian of the child(ren) and would receive all the assets (we are beneficiaries on each other's retirement accounts and life insurance).

2. If both of us died at the same time, we would want to:
-designate a guardian
-make sure that all of our assets and life insurance money goes to our child(ren). I'm assuming we may need a trust for this so that they don't inherit $4+MM while still children (or even at age 18)?
-- This scenario is the most important to us.

3. If our entire family including child(ren) died simultaneously, we would divide the assets and insurance between our families equally (this scenario is not as important to us).


Just as a ballpark, how much should we be looking to spend on this? We are not in a HCOL area. We are willing to spend the money to have it done correctly. Typically, I am a DIY person to save the money, but in this case we will be using a professional. The question is, how expensive of a professional. We have a quote from a well-regarded estate planning attorney from a local firm at $260/hr with "ballpark" expected fees of $1000 for a "very simple will", $2000 if it "includes setting up a trust", and $3000 for "more complicated issues." So here is the question, which one of these cases do we fit into? I'm guessing the $2000 scenario, and probably will need to have it revised in the future as our family and assets (real estate, likely) change.

I've seen posts on here about wills by an attorney for $500-$750, so I'm wondering if our situation is simple enough that spending $2000+ is overkill in this scenario, or a reasonable fee. And at what point is it reasonable to have a firm quote instead of just knowing the hourly rate? After the initial meeting and questionnaire?

Thanks!
That's about what we paid about 15 years ago for wills and trusts for a situation somewhat similar to yours and recently paid a similar amount to update them as our situations had materially changed. Given your incomes and assets and life insurance it isn't an unreasonable fee. More importantly do you feel good about the legal advice you are getting. That is what is tricky. While I'm an accountant I'm somewhat taking on faith that the attorney knows what he is doing. Ive asked questions over the years and always found the answers informed and educated but still there is a leap of faith.

limeyx
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by limeyx » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:46 pm

Gill wrote:I would forget about using an attorney through this plan and seek out an experienced trusts and estates attorney.
Gill
I agree with this

These fees are possibly very regional too. The price we had to pay in Seattle was significantly higher than that of LA, I think due to the probate law costs being much higher in LA so everyone has a trust whereas here it's less common

WL2034
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:46 pm

JBTX wrote: That's about what we paid about 15 years ago for wills and trusts for a situation somewhat similar to yours and recently paid a similar amount to update them as our situations had materially changed. Given your incomes and assets and life insurance it isn't an unreasonable fee. More importantly do you feel good about the legal advice you are getting. That is what is tricky. While I'm an accountant I'm somewhat taking on faith that the attorney knows what he is doing. Ive asked questions over the years and always found the answers informed and educated but still there is a leap of faith.
We haven't met with the attorney yet, so not sure -- but I expect to feel good about the advice as this is one of those upscale law firms. Your other point is right on the money about taking it on faith that the attorney knows what he is doing. He could definitely just print a will off of legal zoom and hand it to me, and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It's kind of like that quote, "If you know enough to be able to choose a good financial advisor, then you don't need to hire a financial advisor." Well, I don't know nearly enough to be able to choose a quality estate planning attorney, but I don't think there is an easy way to remedy that. At least this is a reputable firm, and he has good recommendations from others.

bsteiner
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by bsteiner » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:51 am

limeyx wrote:... These fees are possibly very regional too. The price we had to pay in Seattle was significantly higher than that of LA, I think due to the probate law costs being much higher in LA so everyone has a trust whereas here it's less common
It's usually the other way around. Billing rates are higher in Los Angeles than in Seattle, and as you pointed out you'll probably do a living trust in addition to your Wills in Los Angeles but not in Seattle, which will add some cost in Los Angeles.
WL2034 wrote:... The ... attorney ... is a partner at a reputable local law firm with 20-30 attorneys in the firm (listed on the website). We received the recommendation from co-workers who have (very likely) greater assets than we do.

He specializes in estate planning, trust administration, and creates comprehensive estate plans for individuals and families. ...

... this is one of those upscale law firms ....
If your description is correct, and he's knowledgeable, at a good firm, and with a very low billing rate, he sounds like an excellent choice.

Let us know if he's able to create flexible trusts for your children that don't limit or mandate distributions, with each child getting to control his/her trust at a specified age, if he's able to include a parallel set of trusts to receive the retirement benefits, and if he's able to do the beneficiary designations to get the retirement benefits and the life insurance to the appropriate trusts at the surviving spouse's death.

JBTX
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:58 am

WL2034 wrote:
JBTX wrote: That's about what we paid about 15 years ago for wills and trusts for a situation somewhat similar to yours and recently paid a similar amount to update them as our situations had materially changed. Given your incomes and assets and life insurance it isn't an unreasonable fee. More importantly do you feel good about the legal advice you are getting. That is what is tricky. While I'm an accountant I'm somewhat taking on faith that the attorney knows what he is doing. Ive asked questions over the years and always found the answers informed and educated but still there is a leap of faith.
We haven't met with the attorney yet, so not sure -- but I expect to feel good about the advice as this is one of those upscale law firms. Your other point is right on the money about taking it on faith that the attorney knows what he is doing. He could definitely just print a will off of legal zoom and hand it to me, and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It's kind of like that quote, "If you know enough to be able to choose a good financial advisor, then you don't need to hire a financial advisor." Well, I don't know nearly enough to be able to choose a quality estate planning attorney, but I don't think there is an easy way to remedy that. At least this is a reputable firm, and he has good recommendations from others.
I think what they do is throw a lot of boiler plate language in there and then tweak the applicable names terms etc. you should still read it. A lot of it is indecipherable but it is important to understand it at least at some level and you would be surprised the errors you may find even when you pay $250 a hour. My attorney was a guy had his own firm and was a tax and estate planning attorney. No idea his hourly rate. He is also a CFP but I've never used him in that capacity because I didn't like some of his advice (very non Bogle ish).

limeyx
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by limeyx » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:42 am

bsteiner wrote:
limeyx wrote:... These fees are possibly very regional too. The price we had to pay in Seattle was significantly higher than that of LA, I think due to the probate law costs being much higher in LA so everyone has a trust whereas here it's less common
It's usually the other way around. Billing rates are higher in Los Angeles than in Seattle, and as you pointed out you'll probably do a living trust in addition to your Wills in Los Angeles but not in Seattle, which will add some cost in Los Angeles.
WL2034 wrote:... The ... attorney ... is a partner at a reputable local law firm with 20-30 attorneys in the firm (listed on the website). We received the recommendation from co-workers who have (very likely) greater assets than we do.

He specializes in estate planning, trust administration, and creates comprehensive estate plans for individuals and families. ...

... this is one of those upscale law firms ....
If your description is correct, and he's knowledgeable, at a good firm, and with a very low billing rate, he sounds like an excellent choice.

Let us know if he's able to create flexible trusts for your children that don't limit or mandate distributions, with each child getting to control his/her trust at a specified age, if he's able to include a parallel set of trusts to receive the retirement benefits, and if he's able to do the beneficiary designations to get the retirement benefits and the life insurance to the appropriate trusts at the surviving spouse's death.
Our trust in Seattle was 3x the cost of LA (admittedly I was single in LA and we got a more comprehensive product here)

afan
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by afan » Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:48 pm

One problem with giving an upfront cost: part of the attorney's job is explaining the options and answering questions. Some people ask a lot of questions and possibly many "what if" scenarios. Others make prompt decisions and get on with it. Without knowing what type of clients they have it could be hard for lawyers to predict how much time they will spend on a case.

Having had people who claimed to experts and weren't and people who really were, I can tell you it is worth getting it done right. The OP's situation should be routine to an expert. But there are lots of things that a DIY layperson or a lawyer who is not an expert could screw up. If you are lucky you find out about the screw ups while you can fix them
If you are unlucky, your heirs get screwed by someone claiming expertise they did not have.
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WL2034
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:22 pm

afan wrote:One problem with giving an upfront cost: part of the attorney's job is explaining the options and answering questions. Some people ask a lot of questions and possibly many "what if" scenarios. Others make prompt decisions and get on with it. Without knowing what type of clients they have it could be hard for lawyers to predict how much time they will spend on a case.

Having had people who claimed to experts and weren't and people who really were, I can tell you it is worth getting it done right. The OP's situation should be routine to an expert. But there are lots of things that a DIY layperson or a lawyer who is not an expert could screw up. If you are lucky you find out about the screw ups while you can fix them
If you are unlucky, your heirs get screwed by someone claiming expertise they did not have.
That seems to be the consensus thus far regarding fixed cost for the job vs. hourly fee, and it makes sense to me. I won't inquire about the total cost again -- the "ballpark figures" the attorney provided are fine. I guess my initial thought was that if the attorney has all of the pertinent info prior to starting the project, they would be able to make an accurate projection regarding the cost. But I can see how it depends on the clients, and not just the information on paper. As long as I know to expect $2k-$3k and not $10k+, etc. I would definitely rather have a qualified and competent estate attorney who charges by the hour than an attorney off of my discount plan mentioned above who will give me 25% off of a fixed rate for a will, but does not regularly practice estate planning. I got the feeling that on that discount plan I have through my employer, the attorneys just checked as many boxes for their available services as possible to get more business from this agency. "Oh you need a will, well this attorney says he offers that--along with criminal law, family law, patent law, business law, personal injury law..." :?

This attorney we are going to use lectures part-time as a law school professor on estate planning and is a member of the local Estate Planning Council. As a complete layperson, I do not think I could reliably find someone more qualified based upon their online resume`. So hopefully, it will be well worth the fee. I will try to update afterwards with the experience and total fee.

gr7070
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by gr7070 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:15 pm

WL2034 wrote:I guess my initial thought was that if the attorney has all of the pertinent info prior to starting the project, they would be able to make an accurate projection regarding the cost.
A million times yes to this!!

You're asking for very basic planning! You're very specific. How in the hell can they not give you a very accurate number? Ridiculous!

I estimate engineering fees for *billion dollar projects* that contractors have to estimate the entire billion dollar construction budget, but a lawyer can't estimate a basic will that they've done a hundred times that will take them 10 hours total?!?! BS!!

If a lawyer can't figure that out I don't want to hire that one.

If client questions/explanations is the "giant" variable then contract a limited time for that.

There's hardly anything you're asking for that requires expansive discussions.

Personally, I'd DIY. You likely don't need a trust to delay funds receipt past 18. Your state will allow for up to a certain age.

If you're reasonably intelligent and willing to read and research you can do a simple will, which is what you're asking for.

I'd buy Willmaker. Read the manual and all the commentary etc. If you decide to go with an attorney you'll easily save the cost of the program by needing that much less time in questions/discussing etc. It absolutely can't hurt you to buy and read.

Leaving everything to your spouse and then your child takes so little. The likelihood of you screwing that up is small. The likelihood of you screwing that up AND dying in order for that screw up to become realized is infinitesimally small. Then subtract the chances a good lawyer screws up and your risk drops further. Factor in the guaranteed cost of a prepared will...

Once you're done with kids and if you have more significant estate planning needs when your older go get a lawyer to do one. Otherwise simple is just that.

DIY is a no brainer for simple, easy will if you're smart and willing to learn.

Gill
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by Gill » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:52 am

gr7070 wrote:
WL2034 wrote:I guess my initial thought was that if the attorney has all of the pertinent info prior to starting the project, they would be able to make an accurate projection regarding the cost.
A million times yes to this!!

You're asking for very basic planning! You're very specific. How in the hell can they not give you a very accurate number? Ridiculous!

I estimate engineering fees for *billion dollar projects* that contractors have to estimate the entire billion dollar construction budget, but a lawyer can't estimate a basic will that they've done a hundred times that will take them 10 hours total?!?! BS!!

If a lawyer can't figure that out I don't want to hire that one.

If client questions/explanations is the "giant" variable then contract a limited time for that.

There's hardly anything you're asking for that requires expansive discussions.

Personally, I'd DIY. You likely don't need a trust to delay funds receipt past 18. Your state will allow for up to a certain age.

If you're reasonably intelligent and willing to read and research you can do a simple will, which is what you're asking for.

I'd buy Willmaker. Read the manual and all the commentary etc. If you decide to go with an attorney you'll easily save the cost of the program by needing that much less time in questions/discussing etc. It absolutely can't hurt you to buy and read.

Leaving everything to your spouse and then your child takes so little. The likelihood of you screwing that up is small. The likelihood of you screwing that up AND dying in order for that screw up to become realized is infinitesimally small. Then subtract the chances a good lawyer screws up and your risk drops further. Factor in the guaranteed cost of a prepared will...

Once you're done with kids and if you have more significant estate planning needs when your older go get a lawyer to do one. Otherwise simple is just that.

DIY is a no brainer for simple, easy will if you're smart and willing to learn.
Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project. You have made the right decision as you outlined above.
Gill

bsteiner
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by bsteiner » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:01 am

limeyx wrote:... Our trust in Seattle was 3x the cost of LA (admittedly I was single in LA and we got a more comprehensive product here)
It would cost more if you were married and presumably had more assets and possibly had or were considering having children.

Why "Our trust in Seattle"? While revocable trusts are commonly used in California (though not necessarily for people who are young and single), I learned from my talk last fall at the Estate Planning Conference in Seattle that they're not commonly used in Washington State.

Another complexity in Washington State is the state estate tax. Washington State has the highest state estate tax rates of any state, going up to 20%. The exemption is only $2,129,000 (in 2017), and Washington State permits separate QTIP elections. Given the high rates and the low exemption, coupled with there being no state income tax, the planning is different from (and more complicated than) the planning in California which has a high state income tax but no state estate tax.
WL2034 wrote:... This attorney we are going to use lectures part-time as a law school professor on estate planning and is a member of the local Estate Planning Council. As a complete layperson, I do not think I could reliably find someone more qualified based upon their online resume`. So hopefully, it will be well worth the fee. I will try to update afterwards with the experience and total fee.
He sounds like an excellent choice. Let us know how it works out.

Two more issues the lawyer should raise (and will help you evaluate him):

1. No one commented on your decision to leave everything to the surviving spouse. Since portability is not indexed (in other words, if one spouse dies this year, the surviving spouse's exclusion amount will be his/her own $5,490,000, indexed, plus the deceased spouse's $5,490,000, not indexed). Also, there's no portability for the GST exemption. With a combined estate of $7 million and high incomes, your estates are likely to grow. So if a couple in your situation decided to leave everything to each other, the best practice would be to include a disclaimer trust in the Will, as a backup, to give the surviving spouse the option to have some or all of the assets go into a trust for his/her benefit that wouldn't be included in his/her estate. You would also have to make the disclaimer trust the first contingent beneficiary of the life insurance.

2. Since you're young, I assume that one or both of you has a living parent or parents. Since you're likely to have a taxable estate, you might want to have your parents provide for you in trust rather than outright, to keep your inheritance out of your estate for estate tax purposes, and to protect it against your creditors and spouses.

This also illustrates one of the problems of a flat fee. If the lawyer is working on a flat fee, he/she may not want to raise these issues, since he/she will have to spend time discussing them and in the case of #1 spending a little bit of time drafting for it.

bsteiner
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by bsteiner » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:19 am

Gill wrote:
gr7070 wrote:... Personally, I'd DIY. You likely don't need a trust to delay funds receipt past 18. Your state will allow for up to a certain age. ...

DIY is a no brainer for simple, easy will if you're smart and willing to learn.
Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project. You have made the right decision as you outlined above.
gr7070 may be right. If I can learn how to fill a simple cavity in a tooth half way to the back (the ones in the front aren't wide enough and the ones in the back are too hard to reach), then the original poster should be able to learn how to do his estate planning. Of course, given his and his wife's incomes, it's probably not worth their time to learn how to do it.

Actually, a nationally prominent trusts and estates lawyer, now retired, tried doing a Will for himself on LegalZoom (just to test the software -- he didn't actually sign the Will). He said it was pretty good, though it didn't offer all of the choices he would have wanted. So for many people it might be sufficient.

However, gr7070 missed one important issue. Under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, a custodian can usually hold the assets until age 21 (25 in some states), but at that point they have to be distributed and the young adult child (without the guidance of a living parent) will control them. Also, that way the assets will be thrown into the child's estate and subject to the child's creditors and spouses.

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by Gill » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:37 am

Bruce, thanks for your emphasis on delaying distribution to the children. OP had stressed the importance of that in his original post. A UGMA or UTMA is hardly the solution for that. Very few parents would consider it advisable to hand their children over $7 million at age 21 or 25.

Back in the 1960's, when a million dollars was serious money, I was involved with a guardianship for a boy who inherited that sum at the age of two from a grandparent. After numerous disasters in his life, including several encounters with law enforcement, the entire sum was gone before he attained age 21 when he was scheduled to receive the fund free of the guardianship. Every officer in the trust department of a major bank was involved in trying to protect this fellow from himself to no avail. That was at the beginning of my career, and that example has stuck with me since then. There really is no good alternative to a trust in this kind of situation.
Gill

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by EddyB » Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:44 am

gr7070 wrote:
WL2034 wrote:I guess my initial thought was that if the attorney has all of the pertinent info prior to starting the project, they would be able to make an accurate projection regarding the cost.
A million times yes to this!!

You're asking for very basic planning! You're very specific. How in the hell can they not give you a very accurate number? Ridiculous!

I estimate engineering fees for *billion dollar projects* that contractors have to estimate the entire billion dollar construction budget, but a lawyer can't estimate a basic will that they've done a hundred times that will take them 10 hours total?!?! BS!!

If a lawyer can't figure that out I don't want to hire that one.

If client questions/explanations is the "giant" variable then contract a limited time for that.

There's hardly anything you're asking for that requires expansive discussions.
But the OP did get an estimate, and absent "Oh, we forgot to mention ..." and "Can we talk about what happens if ...", the estimate will probably be very close. But any lawyer who has worked with clients (especially clients seeking advice on personal matters) knows that there will be a big range of how organised clients are, how inquisitive they are and how much "hand holding" they require. A couple of extra hours on an 8-hour project pushes the fee off 25%. There are lawyers that do this stuff on a fixed-fee basis, but apparently not the OP's. I bet a very organised client can get the same work done for less on an hourly basis than they'd pay for the fixed-fee charge of a comparable attorney (and I think your suggestion to use software to become informed and organised is a good one).

gr7070
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by gr7070 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 12:54 pm

Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project.
It is if the will says when I'm dead she gets everything or if she's dead they get everything.

That's hard to screw up.

It's also not a $7M estate, at least as far as the will is concerned; it's $4M. It's also incredibly unlikely a healthy 30 year old dies, let alone two, that's astronomical odds.

FWIW I'd reduce that estate size, too. Especially not being in a HCOLA. What are you trying to accomplish OP with that large of a policy, especially with a reasonably high NW already?

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:43 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Gill wrote:
gr7070 wrote:... Personally, I'd DIY. You likely don't need a trust to delay funds receipt past 18. Your state will allow for up to a certain age. ...

DIY is a no brainer for simple, easy will if you're smart and willing to learn.
Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project. You have made the right decision as you outlined above.
gr7070 may be right. If I can learn how to fill a simple cavity in a tooth half way to the back (the ones in the front aren't wide enough and the ones in the back are too hard to reach), then the original poster should be able to learn how to do his estate planning. Of course, given his and his wife's incomes, it's probably not worth their time to learn how to do it.
That's pertinent here. For something like investing where using a "professional" adviser costs a fee of 1+% in perpetuity ($10+k / year at a minimum), I think it is well worth educating ourselves. For making a will and trust, which I think requires more expertise and training, and is a one time fee -- it makes more sense to hire a professional for us. If the fee for a will and trust was $10k+/ year, I would probably give the DIY a try, but for this fee I will just go to work extra hours and delegate the work to the attorney. I have no doubt I would spend at least twice as much time reading and DIY as the attorney will charge and the end result will be me being unsure if the will covers all my bases.
gr7070 wrote:
Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project.
It is if the will says when I'm dead she gets everything or if she's dead they get everything.

That's hard to screw up.

It's also not a $7M estate, at least as far as the will is concerned; it's $4M. It's also incredibly unlikely a healthy 30 year old dies, let alone two, that's astronomical odds.

FWIW I'd reduce that estate size, too. Especially not being in a HCOLA. What are you trying to accomplish OP with that large of a policy, especially with a reasonably high NW already?
We bought $1MM 30 year term with a $2MM 20 year rider. So we have $3MM coverage until age 53 and $1MM coverage from 53-63. We bought it while we were young, healthy, easily insurable. It's cheap and represents about 10 yrs salary. I suppose it would cover debts such as a mortgage, childcare if one of us became a single parent, college expenses, etc. Also would allow us not to work as much if we became a single parent to spend more time with children.

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by Gill » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:18 pm

gr7070 wrote:
Well, there's your contrary opinion, OP. Most of us would disagree. A potential estate exceeding $7 million is not a DIY project.
It is if the will says when I'm dead she gets everything or if she's dead they get everything.

That's hard to screw up.

It's also not a $7M estate, at least as far as the will is concerned; it's $4M. It's also incredibly unlikely a healthy 30 year old dies, let alone two, that's astronomical odds.

FWIW I'd reduce that estate size, too. Especially not being in a HCOLA. What are you trying to accomplish OP with that large of a policy, especially with a reasonably high NW already?
Thanks for enlightening me. Yes, I realize there is not a testamentary estate of $7 million. Nevertheless, there are potential estate taxes involved on the entire gross estate and the assets could all pass to the children. If the odds of death are so remote as you say, perhaps you would advise them to not bother with a will at all.
Gill

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by gr7070 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:57 pm

WL2034 wrote: We bought $1MM 30 year term with a $2MM 20 year rider. So we have $3MM coverage until age 53 and $1MM coverage from 53-63. We bought it while we were young, healthy, easily insurable. It's cheap and represents about 10 yrs salary. I suppose it would cover debts such as a mortgage, childcare if one of us became a single parent, college expenses, etc. Also would allow us not to work as much if we became a single parent to spend more time with children.
I take it you bought before you had a dependent.

You could put a dollar amount to all those items you want and I suspect it would come out to far less than 3M. Obviously up to you to do as you prefer.

chemocean
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by chemocean » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:07 pm

My wife and I had wills with testamentary trust set up and it cost about $2000. Some of that was because I examined the will in detail and requested answers to my specific questions (billable hours at $$$$). For us, their will be additional fees for the attorney to establish the trusts upon the death of the surviving spouse. I suggest you investigate two items in detail with your attorney. 1) The age of the children when they can take control of your assets after both of you are gone. When they were young children, we set the age at 25. As they neared 25, we looked at their behavior and concluded that both could not handle responsibility for large amounts of assets. We increased the age that they would directly inherit our assets. 2) How the assets of the IRAs are handled in the Trusts. In order to get the tax benefit of spreading out the distribution, 'see-through" or "conduit" trusts need to be specifically addressed in the wills. My understanding is that assets of IRAs trust might need to be liquidated in the trust within a certain period of time (five years) if certain language is missing. I have talked with financial profession who think conduit trusts are not beneficial.

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:43 pm

gr7070 wrote:
WL2034 wrote: We bought $1MM 30 year term with a $2MM 20 year rider. So we have $3MM coverage until age 53 and $1MM coverage from 53-63. We bought it while we were young, healthy, easily insurable. It's cheap and represents about 10 yrs salary. I suppose it would cover debts such as a mortgage, childcare if one of us became a single parent, college expenses, etc. Also would allow us not to work as much if we became a single parent to spend more time with children.
I take it you bought before you had a dependent.

You could put a dollar amount to all those items you want and I suspect it would come out to far less than 3M. Obviously up to you to do as you prefer.
The main calculation is that if one of us dies and the other becomes a single parent, the newly single parent could drop to 0.5-0.6 FTE to spend more time with the children, pay off the mortgage, 2-3 x college tuition + grad school, and not draw down on the current nest egg. I think the decreased income in the future, along with those expected expenses, would come close to the value of the policy.

Obviously, becoming a single parent while having an annual salary of $150k-200k (at 0.6 FTE) is still a stable financial situation. So do we need that much insurance? No. In reality we probably don't need any life insurance. However, in the scenario that we both remain healthy and working until we are in our 50's, the premiums paid will be basically inconsequential at that point. So we are planning for the worst case scenario, which is that one or both of us don't make it to 50.

I realize that there is a 98+% chance that we both survive to 53, are financially independent by then, and that we would have been better off, financially, without life insurance and doing our own will on Legalzoom. Hopefully, I will have the good fortune to look back in 20 years and kick myself for wasting the money on the attorney fees for the will and the extra life insurance. But I think I'll sleep better over the next 20 years knowing that, just in case I don't make it, we have plenty of insurance and a will written by a competent professional.

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by WL2034 » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:46 pm

chemocean wrote: I have talked with financial profession who think conduit trusts are not beneficial.
Did they mention why the conduit trust is not beneficial? I will inquire about this, or perhaps someone on the forum knows. When you say "financial profession," perhaps this is someone who wants the assets in the trust to be liquidated as soon as possible, so that they can begin to manage that money with an AUM fee?

bsteiner
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by bsteiner » Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:25 pm

WL2034 wrote:
chemocean wrote: I have talked with financial profession who think conduit trusts are not beneficial.
Did they mention why the conduit trust is not beneficial? I will inquire about this, or perhaps someone on the forum knows. ...
Conduit trusts rarely if ever make any sense. In a conduit trust, all of the distributions from the IRA have to be paid out to the beneficiary on a current basis. If the beneficiary lives to life expectancy, nothing will be left in the trust. All of the assets will be thrown into the beneficiary's estate for estate tax purposes and will be exposed to the beneficiary's creditors and spouses. It would make more sense to have the trusts be fully discretionary, so the trustees can decide each year how much (if anything) to distribute to the child (or to the child's children or grandchildren) and how much (if anything) to accumulate in the trust, based upon the facts and circumstances from time to time.

See my article on trusts as beneficiaries of retirement benefits in the March 2004 issue of BNA Tax Management's Estates, Gifs & Trusts Journal: https://www.elderlawanswers.com/Documen ... nefits.pdf.

limeyx
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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by limeyx » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:06 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:01 am
limeyx wrote:... Our trust in Seattle was 3x the cost of LA (admittedly I was single in LA and we got a more comprehensive product here)
It would cost more if you were married and presumably had more assets and possibly had or were considering having children.

Why "Our trust in Seattle"? While revocable trusts are commonly used in California (though not necessarily for people who are young and single), I learned from my talk last fall at the Estate Planning Conference in Seattle that they're not commonly used in Washington State.

Another complexity in Washington State is the state estate tax. Washington State has the highest state estate tax rates of any state, going up to 20%. The exemption is only $2,129,000 (in 2017), and Washington State permits separate QTIP elections. Given the high rates and the low exemption, coupled with there being no state income tax, the planning is different from (and more complicated than) the planning in California which has a high state income tax but no state estate tax.

Just saw this. Yes my initial trust would have cost more for my current situation, this is definitely true.

I actually wasn't aware of the WA state estate tax ... thats nasty. Definitely have to plan to increase spending in retirement then !

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Re: Will / Trust attorney fees -- how much? (quoted $2000-3000)

Post by HIinvestor » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:38 am

We were referred to attorneys by our bank who would have charged $1000 we were told. We were also referred to a different attorney who offered to do a complete package for us for about $3-4000.

We went with the latter guy because we trusted the attorney who referred us (a relative who is corp counsel for a local bank). Our attorney has been very helpful and helped us clear title on the properties we inherited as well and deal with an estate attorney in another state. He did NOT nickel and dime us and charge us extra for the title taking nearly a year before the courts finished recording it. The attorney we chose was the son of the late probate court judge and specializes in estates and trusts.

We will probably meet with him again if there is a change in estate taxes or our circumstances and re-examine our plan and make any adjustments. We like that he's very calm and is well-respected by everyone and competent.

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