First, the couple has a very brief telephone call with Lawyer A asking for and being told they can have just want they want for a flat fee of about $800. Next they have an initial consultation with Lawyer B, who waives the initial fee. After an hour, in which the couple begins to feel very overwhelmed by a seemingly unnecessary for them complex process, Lawyer B says he anticipates their estate plan will cost somewhere around $5,000. But because it he bills by the hour and he can’t predict everything, it could run higher. Additionally, they would be responsible for several other itemized expenses that could prove necessary in the course of the representation. This plan would include far more than the simple Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills Lawyer A offered, but the couple leaves unclear as to why they are talking about trusts and feeling like they are being offered more than they need.
The couple then schedules a meeting with Lawyer C, receiving a welcoming packet of information and initial questionnaire in advance. Lawyer C explains she needs this information to properly evaluate and make recommendations about what type of estate plan might suit them best. Through the process of completing this questionnaire, which helps them organize their estate planning information and sharpen their focus on their wishes, the couple begins to feel better prepared and less “in the dark.”
With Lawyer C, the couple immediately feels comfortable, as though they are talking with a peer, rather than being talked down to by a superior. Lawyer C explains a little about her practice, the estate planning process generally, and asks some probing questions of them. She then suggests what she thinks would best protect the couple’s family and assets according to the wishes and goals they expressed. Understanding it is their choice to make, the couple then reviews Lawyer C’s printed fee schedule, comparing apples to oranges as it were. They choose a $4,000 flat fee package they feel provides them the best value, happy there will be no surprise fees, and agreeing to handle some of the administrative work themselves. Although this is far more than they originally planned to spend, they agree it is important enough to do now while they could and not wait for tragedy to strike, particularly in light of recent events. So they sign up for an automatic monthly payment via credit card, and leave already feeling relieved.
A few weeks later, after several very conveniently timed telephone conferences and thorough, patient reviews of and revisions to drafts, the couple’s estate plan is ready for signing. Lawyer C comes to their home one Saturday afternoon and they sit around the kitchen table, while the couple’s young children play around them. Lawyer C makes sure they understand and feel good about every document they sign, and thanks the neighbors who kindly stopped by to serve as witnesses. Lawyer C then reminds the couple to whom they should provide copies of each document, where they should store them, and offers some additional resources for information sharing. She reminds them to revisit their plan and promises to follow up with them as well, but says they shouldn’t be strangers in the meantime.
That night, the couple goes out for “date night” dinner and drinks with friends, leaving their young children happy at home with their favorite babysitter. On the way home, a drunk driver strikes the couple’s car directly. Stay tuned for what happens next . . .