Follow
Share

I have been presented with a bill that to me seems overly high. I don't know how to compare it to other lawyer fees, Can you help?

Find Care & Housing
Costs (package deals or by the hour) are going to vary from state to state and even within a state. The attorney who handled the POAs, will, trust, condo, etc for my parents is close to a major city. At that time (2006 I believe) he charged about 4k for the work done. Dad passed in 2008. Around 2015 we had to revisit him. The will and POAs were not redone, but he prepped the irrevocable trust and life estate trust for mom's condo. It was about 4k again.

Sadly the condo life estate bit into the sale, as she couldn't stay for "life" to allow it to transfer to us as trustees and giving us the "bump up" to save cap gains. She developed dementia, wouldn't allow the aides in after less than 2 months (only 1 hr/day, with plans to increase as needed), so we had to finagle a way to get her to move to MC. We had to use this atty for the closing when we sold it to cover her MC costs, and THAT was even more expensive. We could have held on to it until she passes, but the fees and taxes were killers! None of us wanted to live in it and I had enough to do without becoming a landlord to rent it out.

Anyway, assuming this atty knows what she's doing and has done a good job, it probably isn't overly charged. Elder Law attys are "specialists", so they need to know more about elder law than your run of the mill atty, who can draw up a will or even trusts, POAs, etc. As noted, you could call others in the area and ask for a ballpark price for the work you had done. If they are all in the same price range, then it's probably the going rate for your area.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to disgustedtoo
Report

JoAnn, there CAN be state differences.   I get a newsletter from the firm I used to work for, and sometimes the case or statutory law updates address situations applicable to our state, but perhaps not to others.   

As to redoing all the documents, it would depend I think on which document is affected.   A Will can be amended through a Codicil.   Best recollection for Trusts, is an "Amended and Restated Trust" in which only the changed part is addressed and all other provisions are "held constant" (i.e., not changed at all).

POAs might be affected, and I believe that they would be redone, if for no other reason than to be on the safe side and have only one document being effective.

As to state jurisdiction, I believe it's the state in which the individual creating the documents lives, unless it's changed and I missed it.  

As to HIPAA and release of information, it's been some years since I signed new ones, but best recollection is that I signed not just a HIPAA release, but also a release for medical billing purposes - 2 separate documents.   I have copies as I always ask for them, so I'll check next time when I get a chance. 

Any other questions? Not sure I can answer them, but I'll try.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report

Ok, I am not familiar with any of this. Been procrastinating about POAs. Not much in the way of an estate. Girls are beneficiaries to all our investments. So saying that...

Do you have to redo everything? It was done in another state are laws that different? And I wondered too about the HIPPA thing. Like said, that is done at doctor offices and facilities. It basically gives the Dr and hospitals authority to give out info on you to insurance companies for billing purposes. Or, to say who you don't want to have your info. If someone has been assigned as your medical POA they should have no problem getting info if you are incompetent or incapacitated to make informed decisions.

I think $400 is a little steep. I may ask around.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to JoAnn29
Report

Bringing this back in the mainstream, b/c I think it illustrates how someone can attempt to exploit a potential client.

MsGiggy wrote:

"It was a bill outlining her services. FPOA, HPOA, HIPPA Authorization,
Will, RLT, Memo Certification of Trust, Documents and Funding Instructions. It is her law firm."

1.   To charge for a HIPAA (not HIPPA) authorization is to me exploitation.   We've signed individual HIPAA authorizations for every medical practice we visited.   They each have their own authorization, probably prepared by their attorneys.    Even if you have your own, they're likely going to want their specific form signed.

This is greed, overreaching, and in my opinion unprofessional and exploitative.

2.    A Certification of Trust is probably what's also known as Certificate of Trust Existence and Authority.   They're standardized except for the specific names and dates.   Any well organized attorney would have these saved as standard forms; the secretaries or paralegals merely load the forms and insert the specific data.  

The attorney wouldn't do anything except (a) provide the names, addresses and any other pertinent data (b) proof read for accuracy and (c) specify a form letter to the recorder's office so the document can be recorded.

3.  "Documents" are individually identified; this is a catch-all term for which I'm not sure there is any meaning.

4.   Funding instructions are in my experience unique to each asset.   Real property needs to be conveyed to the Trust, which requires a Quit Claim Deed.   For a practicing EL attorney, the language would be standard.   There is some Deed data to enter, such as names, addresses, the specific conveyance language and of course the property description.   Experienced legal secretaries or paralegals would prepare drafts for review by the attorney, minimizing the attorney's time and billing costs.

Stocks, mutual and other assets are most likely transferred by forms of the individual companies; that's been my experience.   My father completed multiple forms when we funded his Trust.    Banks are similar; they have their own forms for opening accounts.

Ms. Giggy, I think this solo practitioner is exploiting you by attempting to overcharge you.    Find a firm that doesn't.   You're entitled to have legal services at reasonable costs, not be scalped by a solo practitioner who seems to have found an opportunity to pad her bill.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report

Something I remembered about the extra costs of trusts:  transferring assets into the Trust.   This would typically involve a Quit Claim Deed from the title holders to the Settlor (the individual who creates the trust), recording of the Deed, transferring other assets (including stocks, mutuals, etc.), possibly an Inventory of transferred assets, etc.    It's a lot of paperwork, but it has to be done if everything is to be held in trust.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report

Ask if the bill for $4000 is a retainer fee. My husband and I just redid our paperwork for about that cost. We have an even more detailed set of papers than one we did 15 years ago that covers scenarios we did not even think of
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to MACinCT
Report

When I had my estate documents updated after my divorce 5 years ago, I was quoted and charged $950. The $950 is a set fee at the law firm I used for a Will, Durable POA, Healthcare Representative and Advanced Directive. Trusts are not nearly as common in Canada as they are in the US. We do not have estate taxes in Canada so Trusts are rarely used.

Since then the lawyer in question has given me a free 15 minute consult. It was about something that will soon trigger a need for me to update my Will. When I do the update it will not cost me as much as I will not be updating the POA documents at this time.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Tothill
Report

MsGiggy, it's really hard to tell, not only b/c of the location, but because of the possible complexity of issues.   It also depends on the attorney's experience, position in the firm (newbie or partner), and it could depend on how organized the attorney is.

The best estate planning practice I worked for had literally everything computerized, and this was back in the mid 1990s.  Trusts and Wills use a lot of standardized verbiage, so the attorney's instructions to the secretaries indicated which forms to use (i.e., single will, joint will, revocable trust, irrevocable trust, etc.) and provided the individualized data to fill in the appropriate forms.  

It was the most organized arrangement I've seen for this type of law practice.    That kind of practice can charge less, but single practitioners or those who aren't as sophisticated would probably charge more.   That's been my experience.

Is this attorney a sole practitioner?  Associate in a firm?  Partner in a firm?   How many attorneys are in the firm, and how many practice areas are there?  Does the firm publish an Estate Planning newsletter?   Hold seminars for its clients, including employees who might be potential estate planning clients?

The only way you can really make a good determination is by comparison shopping with other law firms, following BarbBrooklyn's guidelines for breaking out the work, identifying generally the assets (i.e., real property, mutuals, other financial instruments, heirs, special arrangements, etc.).

I would list all of the above, provide general information (again as to assets), research firms in your area, and start calling.

ETA:  I would generally not expect NC fees to be even equivalent with those of attorneys in NC, or say Chicago, Detroit, or other big cities, which factor high overhead into their pricing scales.    Some of these firms typically cater to "high net worth" clients but also have more middle class clients.   Others just go for the high profile clients.

You might also contact the NC State Bar Assn. and search their attorney categories for estate planning firms in your area.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report

Hey, MsGiggy! I live across the street from Juniors.

Okay, so she is presenting you with an invoice thay will be due, I presume, if you fill out the paperwork and she executes the estate plan.

I would call the lawyer and ask if this is a flat fee for this work. (Some eldercare lawyers charge by the hour for work performed; others charge a flat fee for this sort of work).

Have you called a couple of other lawyers to ask what their fees are? Do you have friends you can ask?

Did she come highly recommended?

I found this on NOLO:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-cost-of-estate-planning-how-much-will-you-pay.html

Here is another article from The Balance:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-do-i-know-if-my-attorney-s-fees-are-reasonable-3505713
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 14, 2020
Hey Barb, just what I was looking for - some interesting reading for a nice quiet Saturday. I liked the last sentence of all this info, "trust your gut", and right now it's say I need a snack.

Seriously, thanks for the info and as in most important decisions, do your homework and rely on your intuition.
(1)
Report
My mom put her trust together with an Elder Attorney in 2003, it included her revocable trust, DPOA, will, health care proxy, bank instructions, etc. It cost her almost $3000. This was in an NYC suburb.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to notgoodenough
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 14, 2020
"notgoodenough", is the NYC suburb Long Island; I lived in Port Washington for 30 years. Thanks for the info, It helped in making my decision.
(1)
Report
See 2 more replies
I started my life in Brooklyn, moved from there to L.I. to NM to NC. My husband died last year, sold my home and moved here to NC where my things are still in storage. I just need to know if $4,000 is a fair price for what I need which is estate planning.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to msgiggy36
Report

So she is presenting you with an estimate, not a bill?
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 14, 2020
A bill after our hour long zoom consult for which I paid $400. I had my lawyer in NM forward all his estate planning paperwork to her office. She sent me loads of papers to fill in which the bill attached.
(0)
Report
Were you not given costs up front? Did you ask for costs up front? Most attorneys will tell you what they charge for all of the above and what they charge per hour for advice (includes phone advice.) I would say in California, for all the above, given they get your property properly drawn into the trust, etc. you are looking at at least 4,000-5,000 for everything if even minimally complicated. Inerestingly enough, about half that price in some So CA areas.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to AlvaDeer
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 14, 2020
Nope I didn't ask up front for costs. In my defense, I lost my husband last year, sold my house a year later and temporarily moved into my daughter's house. I moved from NM to NC and was anxious to settle my affairs here in NC. The NM lawyer had already prepared the necessary papers for all that I mentioned 4 years prior and was forwarded to the lawyer here in NC. I had an initial consult with her for which I paid $400 which consisted of a zoom meeting, after which I was presented with a bill for $4,000 to move forward for the estate planning. That's where I am now.
(1)
Report
We recently paid $1800 for wills, creation of a trust, POAs, and advance directives.

Southern California.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to MJ1929
Report
MJ1929 Nov 17, 2020
I might add that our trust involved multiple properties and two LLCs, so several quitclaims were involved.

I'd say you're being overcharged -- massively overcharged.
(0)
Report
Didn’t you discuss fees with the lawyer before you agreed to use their services? People here are from all over & legal fees vary from state to state. You might be better off calling around local attorneys (estate attorneys or whatever type of attorney you are dealing with) but the fees should have discussed up front.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to worriedinCali
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 14, 2020
Yup you're right, it should have been discussed. I have only had a consult which I paid $400 for and now need to decide if I want to continue with the Elder Care attorney. I don't know if $4,000 is the going rate for estate planning; I moved from NM to NC and need to update all my previous estate paperwork.
(0)
Report
Do you mean what the lawyer's estimate is, or have you received an actual bill?

The price of legal services is VERY location-dependent.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn
Report
msgiggy36 Nov 15, 2020
It was a bill outlining her services. FPOA, HPOA, HIPPA Authorization,
Will, RLT, Memo Certification of Trust, Documents and Funding Instructions. It is her law firm.
(1)
Report
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter