Typical Client Conversation:
Client: How much does it cost to work with you?
Attorney: For this service, it will be [insert amount].
Client: Wow! I saw I could get this on the Internet for $39.95. Do I really need to spend that much on you?
Attorney: Only if you want this done correctly.
Each week across Texas, many of our 80,000 lawyers will have discussions similar to this one with potential clients. This week, our blog examines the real cost of using a lawyer for an estate plan versus the cost of not using a lawyer.
Before we get too far, you should understand a few basic (but important) principles. First, every case is different. Second, every lawyer is a little different. The bottom line is that you can’t rely on a blog post to give you concrete guidance on what your legal matter will cost. There are too many factors to list (area of law, the complexity of the case, the process to be followed, where lawyer practices, etc.).
The Cost of Having the Lawyer
In Texas, where I practice law, a basic estate plan (for someone with a non-taxable estate, simple needs and a generally uncomplicated plan to dispose of his/her assets) should be between about $400 to $800, depending primarily upon where the lawyer is located (big city versus rural area) and the lawyer’s qualifications. As someone located in Dallas and who is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law (so I specialize in this area of law), my services are on the upper-end of that range (though I frequently discount if a client indicates they cannot afford my services or is a repeat client). For this price, the client gets my professional evaluation of their needs, my recommendations regarding how to accomplish their objectives and my professionally-drafted documents that directly relate to them. They also get my guarantee that the estate plan has been done correctly (which, in the age of the internet estate plan is worth its weight in gold).
The Cost of Doing It Yourself (or Not Doing It)
You called me, you heard my fees, and you ran for the hills. You decided that you would be better served either finding an inexpensive alternative (like an internet estate plan) or just skipping it altogether. You got online, found a $39.95 Last Will and Testament, and now you’re good, right? You brag to your friends that you saved about $600. But, are you? Let’s look.
- Instead of having the professionally-drafted Powers of Attorney that gave a trusted family member the ability to make financial or medical decisions for you if you became incapacitated, you opted for the cheapo internet plan that did not include powers of attorney. You’ve recently suffered a stroke that left you incapacitated. Your family is now forced to seek a Guardianship over you and your affairs (because the bank won’t let them access your money to pay your expenses). The cost: $4,000 (including their lawyer, the court-ordered attorney for you, the filing fees and the bond).
- After a stay in the hospital, you pass away. Thankfully that Internet Last Will and Testament will protect your minor daughter (she lives with your ex-spouse). Not so fast. The Internet Last Will was faulty because it was drafted by a non-lawyer in California and it doesn’t comply with Texas law. The court tosses the Will and, now, it’s the same as if you died without having any Will. Your parents want to seek an Administration of your estate so they can get what little property you have left (after the medical bills) into a trust for your kid. Unfortunately, procedural requirements make this an expensive process that includes a legal determination of heirship, and a court-supervised administration. This process lasts a year and costs about $15,000.
Starting to get the point? Unfortunately, these facts happen very commonly. While every case is different (and thus the costs can be radically different, including much less than represented here), this scenario is not rare. Yes, using a lawyer can be more expensive than jumping online and finding some pre-printed forms to use. But, wouldn’t you want to spend a little extra to have it done right? Like most old adages, the one that says “you get what you pay for” tends to be applicable here. If you got a toothache, you wouldn’t just jump on the internet to find a how-to video on pulling your tooth with garage tools, you’d visit a dentist (I hope). The principle of using a lawyer for estate planning is the same. Don’t do it yourself, go to the experts. Our firm routinely helps Texans (rich and not-so-rich) ensure their assets and families are well-protected. Call us today for an estate planning consultation. Most consultations are free of charge.
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ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.