“We don’t really have much; we just need simple Wills.”

A (30-something-year-old) couple (with two young children) thinks most lawyers are crooks out to make a buck at the expense of their unwitting clients. They do a little research online and see what Wills are going for these days. Then they call a couple lawyers, price shopping around explaining, “We don’t really have much; we just need simple Wills.”

Lawyer A, who “does a little of everything,” is happy to “do their Wills” for them for a flat rate fee of $800 and will even generously throw in a Power of Attorney and Living Will, for no additional charge.

Lawyer B offers to do their estate plan, billing at the hourly rate of $250 from start to finish, but cannot give an estimate as to what the fees might total before an initial consultation and information-gathering.

Lawyer C offers to meet with them, via telephone conference or in person, to get a sense of what concerns they have that they want to address with a Will, what their personal family circumstances are, and an overview of their financial situation.

Please leave a comment casting your vote here for which lawyer the couple should hire and I will finish the story as you write it. . .

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About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: dgvelaw.com or call: 781-740-0848

14 thoughts on ““We don’t really have much; we just need simple Wills.”

  1. I would choose C as well. A seems to have a “one size fits all” approach. B may well do a good job, but the open-ended nature of this approach is of concern. C appears to want to take the time to get to know the client and appears most likely to tailor the engagement to the needs of the client.

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  2. I think the couple will choose Lawyer A. Based on the couple’s description, the couple is most likely also watching expenditures during these financial times and/or is frugal. Coupled with their suspiciousness of lawyers, the choice of Lawyer A will provide them with exactly the “simple” product they want, although perhaps not the legal and financial protection they need. It is possible Lawyer C may lend the couple pause before their selection. It depends on the initial contact. If Lawyer C takes the time to counsel them during that first contact, perhaps even send an email link to an article on the intricacies of estate planning, the couple may rethink what it is that they need versus what they want.

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  3. I would pick Lawyer “C”. Everyone is different and personal circumstances should dicate what documents get done, everyone has a different situations, and important docs like wills and estate planning should be tailored to the individual, not be a blank template.

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  4. After calling Lawyer A, the couple was ready to go with her immediately, but they figured they should at least make one more call.

    They called Lawyer B and freaked at the idea of $250/hr with no sense of how many hours were involved. Ready to call back Lawyer A and set an appointment, they thought maybe they should just make one more call. Maybe Lawyer B is a crook, but let's just see who all is out there.

    So they called Lawyer C. They get a bit concerned when Lawyer C won't just quote them a price, but she reminds them that estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Lawyer C has a free consultation offer, so they figure it can't hurt.

    After meeting with Lawyer C and finding out everything that's involved, they call Lawyer A and ask more informed questions. Soon realizing that this isn't her specialty and concerned when Lawyer A starts talking about additional fees, the couple realizes that Lawyer C is there best bet.

    Before getting started with Lawyer C, the couple lays out their budget for estate planning so that they can all work together to create the best plan while not spending more than they can afford.

    Or, they just stop at the first phone call and get a will from Lawyer A. Unfortunately, after the husband's untimely death, the wife is left out in the cold because so many issues were never discussed–especially the fact that the insurance policy at the husband's office still listed his EX-wife as the sole beneficiary.

    Now living in a studio apartment with her two children, the widow starts planning revenge scenarios to get back at Lawyer A. Watch out, Lawyer A, it won't be pretty.

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  5. They would initially meet with Lawyer C. After the meeting, they would completely freak out about everything that is involved in the estate planning process and bury their heads in the sand about it for a few months. Caving into the peer pressure and stress of not having any plans . . . Read Moremade for the future of their children, they call Lawyer A who will provide them what they need with little emotional and capital investment, providing them the false sense of security they are truly seeking. They are short sighted (though that is not what they believe since they have just planned their wills, after alll…) and don't realize that the time and money they “saved” today will result in even more time and money gone with the inevitable happens. And if the “inevitable” is sudden, they open themselves up to an even greater risk of being “taken” since they will be making major decisions during a time of great stress.

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  6. B/C. An amalgamation of the two seems right to me. Of course, some will say I can't make a decision. But that is also true of a young couple who still cannot fathom the idea that they will not live to a ripe old age. They also don't know all the issues involved. If A is a sweet, charming lawyer they may never get to the others. If they do, B/C makes sense and would provide them the best protection.

    But, this is not my story so I am anxious to see what happens:)

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  7. Tough! All 3 attorneys will get business from these kinds of 30-something couples. I'm lawyer C. I cringe at lawyer A. Lawyer B will likely do good and appropriate work, but charge too much.

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  8. I think most of us (the lawyers, at least) know that they should hire Lawyer C. But given their view of lawyers, and the fact that they know up front what Lawyer A will charge, my guess it they will go with A. C sounds good, but with no inkling of price, many clients would just figure they were “too expensive.”

    What might sway them towards Lawyer C is if in addition to their calling around they asked some friends who had used Lawyer C and highly recommended them and gave them an idea of what the cost was so had some idea of what they should budget. And maybe the friends had appointed this couple as guardians for their children, so they had received a letter from Lawyer C already and could tell that she really knows what she's doing.

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  9. Lawyer C because he actually wants to discuss their circumstances first before giving an idea of the cost. This answer is based on the initial consultation being “a freebee”

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  10. Why is everyone so critical of Lawyer A based on the limited information in this post? Is it wrong to charge clients a flat fee? Or is it the fact that Lawyer A does “a little of everything”? (But the post didn't say that B or C were specialists either.)

    I do a lot of flat-fee estate planning, often for a fee similar to Lawyer A's. I screen out complicated situations (step-families, family businesses, tax issues, etc.) before quoting such a fee, and I handle the whole process much better than Lawyer A did in the June 29 post, but in the first phone call, I probably sound much like Lawyer A.

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