If an attorney is preparing your Will, trust agreement, powers of attorney, etc., you will need to pay him or her. Many attorneys (including me) charge a flat fee for estate planning services. That means you decide what documents you would like and know up front how much those services will cost. I have clients pay the entire amount up front and the funds are deposited to my escrow account. When the entire estate planning process is complete, I send the client an invoice itemizing my work and transfer the funds from my escrow account for payment.
I set my flat fee rates by estimating the amount of time it usually takes me to prepare certain documents. I assume other attorneys do the same, but I have never discussed it with other attorneys. I like to provide the certainty of total fees for clients when possible. I perform all of my work in family law and estate administration on an hourly fee basis, so the total cost is not determined up-front.
Some attorneys charge hourly rates for preparing estate planning documents. I do so in some circumstances – usually where the estate planning is more complex or unusual. In that case, I explain my hourly rate and billing process and have the client pay a retainer in advance, which I deposit to my escrow account. If the total fees are less than the retainer amount, I refund the difference. If the total fees exceed the retainer amount, the client pays the difference.
Preparing estate planning documents is not a “cookie cutter” process and one size does not fit all. You’re paying an attorney for his or her advice, knowledge and skill. Make sure you discuss the fees before your attorney starts any work and ask all necessary questions to make sure you are comfortable with the payment arrangements.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Harrisburg, Carlisle, Hershey, Mechanicsburg and surrounding communities and would like to discuss attorney’s fees or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.