Like many clients we’ve worked with, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of selecting the right law firm to assist you with your planning. It may be your first time engaging in estate planning. It may be your first time hiring a law firm! I understand it can be daunting.
And if you’re just getting started, you might not be sure what questions to ask, other than “how much do you charge for a will or trust?”
It’s not the right question.
Think about it this way: Imagine that you have a terrible stomachache and you call your doctor’s office. Would the first question you ask the receptionist be, “how much will it cost to make me better?” Of course not! Until you have a full diagnostic, your doctor won’t know what you need. You could have a severe ulcer requiring major surgery…or you might just be experiencing bad indigestion and need an over-the-counter antacid.
The right question is, “What planning do I need to ensure that I, my family, and my assets will be cared for and protected in the way that I want?”
All too often, people make short-sighted estate planning decisions based on what it’s going to cost today without fully understanding the long-term consequences of the decision.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
That’s where we can help. We can help you understand the long-term consequences of different planning options and how they may impact your family.
Because when tragedy strikes, it’s your family who will be left dealing with the mess.
For many, those quick, cheap solutions end up being nothing more than ticking time bombs for their family because failed plans often lead to unnecessary expenses, delays, taxes, stress, and family conflict.
When you hire us, you’re hiring a professional team to guide you through getting your affairs in order and keeping them up-to-date throughout your lifetime and we’ll be there for your loved ones when you can’t be.
The fees for our planning packages aren’t based on the documents. Rather, our fees are based upon the advice, guidance, counsel and support needed to implement the type of planning selected.
Order Takers and Order Dictators
Unfortunately, there are a lot of lawyers who fall into the category of either "order taker" or "dictator." Order takers have you do your own diagnosis and write your own prescription. Dictators give you a prescription without learning anything about you. Neither of them takes the time to listen. That's just not how our firm works.
We have spent years developing a process we call The Vision Method. It centers around the idea that your planning should be designed according to you, your family, and your vision for the future. Your first meeting with our firm--your Vision Meeting--is about getting to know who you are and what you want to achieve.
That means that until that meeting, we don't know enough about you to present you with planning options. That said, here are some things to consider...
Considerations For Your Estate Plan
First, it is entirely possible that you just need a "simple will." I strongly urge you to attend one of our seminars or read our report, Estate Planning Pitfalls to discover what we believe even the bare essential plans should do, as well as some objectives your plan can accomplish you might not have known about.
Second, you should know that all wills are not the same, nor are all living trusts, nor are powers of attorney or any of the other documents included in your estate plan. Please read what I'm about to say carefully: I've reviewed literally thousands of prior documents that clients have brought in from other attorneys. Some of them were pretty good. But a lot of them I wouldn't consider to be worth the paper they were printed on.
To put it bluntly, they got ripped off. We've seen plans that made some obvious and very serious omissions, plans that didn't take the clients' unique family situations into account, and plans that used complicated techniques that were outdated, no longer necessary, and, frankly, unlikely to work.
Unfortunately, you don't know what you don't know. And worse, no one finds out until it's too late. And that's when we see things like family members never talking to one another again because Mom or Dad left such a mess to clean up when they died.
I want you to consider the value of knowing that your plan is done right. Consider the value of accomplishing exactly what you envision for your family after you're gone.
Compared to what? If that sounds expensive, I can assure you that the cost of doing it twice or of doing it wrong is likely to cost much more in the long-run.
With the level of time, service, and experience that we put into our plans, our firm will never be the cheapest firm in the area. We are not the firm with 2-page form or template documents. The race to the bottom leads to cutting corners, and we have been doing this long enough to know that cutting corners does not get people where they want to go. We have hired an excellent team of talented individuals. We have put a lot of time and money into educating our team and the community at large. We are constantly working to improve our abilities and our work product. We know what it takes to do a good job. So whenever we encounter another firm competing on price, we can’t help but wonder what they might be leaving out...
Most of our estate plans are available on a flat fee basis, but the fees may vary depending on the specific items and provisions of the plan and the goals achieved by the plan. Thus, we have plans that range from over $1,000 to the tens of thousands of dollars.
Our fees are not dependent on the size of the estate. Rather, our fees are based on value and the time, experience, and knowledge needed to help you design and implement your plan. We've had clients with a net worth in the millions whose goals led them to choose our one of our most basic planning options. We've had other clients opt to pay thousands of dollars now to protect tens or hundreds of thousands down the road.
So, how do you choose a law firm, if not based on price?
Before you meet with or hire a law firm, you must read our special report, How to Choose a Will or Trust Lawyer: A Guide for Finding, Interviewing, and Choosing an Estate Planning Lawyer So You Can Avoid Getting Ripped Off and Leaving Your Family with a Great Big Mess, which highlights some of most common errors we see people make in hiring a law firm, plus it outlines a simple 6-step process for choosing your attorney.
Please do yourself and your family a favor and read it. Simply asking “How much for a will or trust?” will not help you make a smart and loving decision for your family.
Instead, begin with, “What do I need to do to make things as easy for my family as possible and provide as much protection for them as possible if something happens to me?”
At Carolina Family Estate Planning, we
help people build better lives by
planning for a secure future,
protecting and building wealth, and
creating lasting legacies.