How Much Do You Charge For “IT” (A Will or Living Trust)? An Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Explains

How Much Do You Charge For “IT” (A Will or Living Trust)? An Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Explains

Family_Estate_PlanningVery frequently, we get a call from someone who is ready to make an appointment for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but wants to know “How Much Will “It” Cost?” “It” here refers to a will or trust or other legal planning document; i.e., “How Much Does a Will Cost” or “How Much is a Living Trust”? Let’s imagine you have that question. Here is what I would tell you.

Before we talk about fees, it’s important for you to understand how our firm is different than traditional law firms. First of all, we don’t bill anything on an hourly basis, so you never have to worry about any surprises when it comes to what something will cost. Everything is flat fee and discussed up front, so you will never get a surprise bill in the mail. With a traditional law firm, you might expect to pay $500-$3,000 for a typical set of estate planning documents. In many cases, in our experience, those estate planning documents won’t work when your family needs them because they will become stale the minute you walk out the door of your lawyers office – you’ll put the documents away and never look at them again. Your life will change, your assets will change, and the law will change, but those documents are going to be sitting there – staying the same. You are unlikely to ever hear from your lawyer again and won’t update your plan and if you do, you’ll very likely have to pay hourly to take care of any updates with uncertainty about how much that will cost on an ongoing basis. And, if your lawyer goes out of business or dies, you’ll have to start everything over with a new lawyer and pay all those initial fees again. And, this is sad to say, your assets are very unlikely to be owned in the right name at the time of your death, making all the planning you did irrelevant.

At GeorgiaFamilyLaw, we don’t believe that traditional model of estate planning really serves you and your family.  Instead, we focus on developing a lifetime relationship with you, giving you affordable access to a lawyer who will help you make the right legal decisions throughout life and then being there for your family when you can’t be.

We do this in a number of ways, including throwing out the time clocks – which means everything we do is billed on a flat fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises.  It means we have a whole team in place to ensure that every part of your planning is done right, including that your assets are titled in the right name and that your planning continues to work throughout your lifetime. We do that by reviewing your planning at least every three years at no additional charge and if you want to make unlimited changes to your plan on an ongoing basis and be able to consult with us about all of your legal and financial questions that come up during life without paying hourly fees, we have a membership program you can join to ensure your planning works when your family needs it. And last, we don’t focus only on passing on your financial wealth, but we also have a unique process for capturing the assets that are most often lost when someone dies because they are intangible – the intellectual, spiritual and human assets – or who you are and what’s important to you.

All of that’s getting a little ahead of the game though because we can’t get to any of that until you complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment and have a Georgia Family Treasures  Planning Session to determine whether your family is a good fit for our services. Normally, that Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is $750, but if you found us through this blog post on our website, we will waive that fee for you.

We only have a limited number of these free sessions we can offer each month, so if you want to have your session for no charge you should go ahead, call our Marietta estate planning lawyer’s office at 770.425.6060 and get on our calendar now.

How to Leave Behind a Legacy—Not Regrets

By: Alexis Martin Neely

Another story of failed legal planning hit the news this week,
as a single mother from California died during the birth of her fourth
child leaving behind four little ones and no guardianship directives.

To complicate things further, the father of these children is not
(and has never been) in the picture to claim responsibility. So fearing
the kids would end up separated in the state welfare system, a neighbor
(who also has six children of her own), stepped up to the plate. And
thankfully the Los Angeles community has stepped up to the plate by
donating diapers, clothing, food, etc. for the now mother of 10.

But in most cases, stories like this one don’t have such a happy
ending. The sad reality is that children are placed in situations their
parents would’ve never have dreamed possible because they didn’t take
the time to plan ahead in the case of their unexpected death or

Let this be a wakeup call for you.

There are three simple things that could have been done differently
to ensure these kids were taken care of upon their mother’s
passing. And if you have little ones at home counting on you, I urge
you take these steps now to ensure a legacy-and not regrets-are what
you leave behind:

1. Get a Term Life Insurance Policy- For a small
amount of money each month, this mother of three with a fourth on the
way could have been paying for a life insurance policy so that her
children were provided for financially should something happen to her
(especially knowing that their father was not in the picture and would
not contribute to their care financially). Because she did not have
life insurance in place, her children are now forced to rely on
handouts and charitable donations from neighbors until they are old
enough to support themselves.

2. Name Short-Term and Long-Term Guardians– While
this story “seems” to have a happy ending with the neighbor stepping up
to raise the four children and keep them all together, will she really
be able to manage raising ten children? Maybe there was another friend
or a family member who would have raised these kids EXACTLY as their
mom would have wanted, but we’ll never know because she didn’t document
her choices for her kids’ care.

3. Create a Legacy of Non-Tangible Assets– This
mother unexpectedly died during childbirth. Because of this, her
newborn baby will never hear the sound of her voice or know firsthand
what her mother’s values were or how she would have guided her about
things like spirit, money, discipline, education, sex, or health
care. As parents, even if you don’t have any money to leave behind, you
can leave your children a gift of your values – who you are and what’s
important to you. You can do that for free by writing letters or
recording a CD for your children. If you work with a Personal Family Lawyer®, this is just part of the legal planning process and becomes a gift that is far greater than all the money in the world.

Ideally, the best way to ensure the well-being and care of your family is to meet with a Personal Family Lawyer®-but
if that’s not feasible for you at the moment because of time or
financial constraints or because there isn’t one in your neighborhood,
I’ve given you steps you can take in the interim. My number one
suggestion is to grab a Kids Protection Planning Kit and a digital recorder or a video recorder. The Kids Protection Planning Kit
will walk you through the legal documentation process and even has
forms you can complete to leave instructions to your guardian. But,
even better than writing them out, speak them. Leave your kids an audio
or video message from you – that’s truly priceless.

Regardless of how you chose to go about it, take the time to get
your affairs in order while there’s still time-ESPECIALLY if you have
young kids depending on you at home. It’s the only way to leave behind
a real legacy-instead of regrets-at the end of your life.

SOURCE: Family Wealth Secrets

Planning For Life

Why You Need A Membership Program NOW

You have changes in your life, the law changes, and your assets change.  If you don’t update your estate plan, then at the end of your life, your planning documents may be totally out of date and USELESS or even worse – WRONG.

Most attorneys bill on an hourly basis, which discourages you from calling their office. It’s possible that since your estate planning documents were signed, you have had a lot of changes in your life and your family. But you didn’t contact the attorney who drafted your documents because you were afraid of what it would cost. That’s understandable.

The traditional estate planning model requires you to proactively contact your attorney when things change in your life, the law changes or your assets change. But, you’re busy and keep putting it off thinking you’ll get to it later.

The traditional model focuses on estate planning documents that pass on your financial assets with minimal court involvement and estate taxes, but far too often don’t focus at all on your most valuable wealth – your intellectual, spiritual, and human assets.

I’m not in the business of putting in place estate plans that are destined to fail because they are outdated. I am here to help you and make a difference in your life!
So, I’ve figured out how I could really make a difference in your life, help you create a real, tangible legacy for your loved ones, ensure your estate plan stays up to date and provide you with ongoing legal services all without charging you hourly fees.
I’m really excited about it and think it’s the perfect solution to all of the problems created as a result of the old, outdated ways of the traditional lawyer … the traditional model has not served you as well as I know I can.

You can be a part of our NEW VIP Membership Program.

I’ve broken free of the traditional lawyer’s way of doing business and the only Family Lawyer doing so in the Marietta and Cobb County, Georgia, area.

I’ve committed to entirely eliminate hourly billing in my office, ensure my client’s estate plans work throughout their lifetime and give my clients affordable access to their own personal lawyer throughout life before making any financial or legal decisions.

How will I do this?

It’s called our “Family Wealth VIP Membership Program”. Here is some of what you get as a member:

 No charge access to me, your own Family Lawyer, so we can talk  before making another legal or financial decision – and not have to worry about being billed.
 Up to 50% discount on future legal services with my office.
 Annual review of your estate planning documents and unlimited plan amendments, so your plan always works!
 Annual asset check up to ensure everything you own is owned in the right way. I can put in place the best documents for you, but if your assets are owned incorrectly, your documents may fail.
 25% discount on the after death administration of a trust estate or will probate administration so your family will never have to worry that they won’t know what to do after you are gone.
 Electronic storage of your Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will and Disclosure of Protected Health Information so your medical professionals can access these critically important documents from anywhere in the world, whenever you need them.
 Annual “Priceless Conversations” that pass on your whole Family Wealth, not just your money. Through these simple conversations, which we will record for you in our office, you will build a legacy library that when left behind will be more valuable than any amount of dollar wealth you could create – it’s about who you are and what’s important to you.

These are just a few of the benefits of our Family Wealth VIP Membership program.

I am also providing a free estate plan check up for the parents (over age 65) of members. If your parents need a comprehensive estate plan after this check up, I’ll provide that at 50% off our normal rates. And, if all they need is an updated Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, Medical Disclosure Release and General Durable Power of Attorney (every adult needs these documents even if they don’t own any property or have any money in the bank), I’ll do that free. These documents benefit you as much as they do your parents.

SOURCE FOR POST: Linda Sherfey

Our Estate Planning Process

Our Process

Our process is designed to minimize confusion.  There are three meetings.

The Initial Meeting

The initial meeting has two potential parts.  The first part is a review of your current plan (or the State of Georgia's plan for you) to determine if there is anything that you wouldn’t like.  If you have minor children, we will talk about what would happen to your minor children if you didn’t come home.  We will talk about the probate process and use your financial numbers to personalize what would happen for you and your family.  We will also use your financial numbers to show what would happen regarding estate taxes.  Assuming there is a good fit between you and the firm, an estate planning level that is right for your family is agreed on.  The flat fees are all inclusive so there are no surprises.

The second part of the initial meeting is to design a plan that is right for you and your family.  The plan will meet your goals and incorporate your values.  If you have minor children, the plan includes the Child Protection Plan.  The Child Protection Plan safeguards your children if something happens to you, either serious injury or death.

The Signing Meeting

At the signing meeting, you will sign your documents.  You receive a brief review of the purpose of the document before signing.  At this meeting, you will choose a topic for the Priceless Conversation.  The Priceless Conversation is a way to preserve your intangible legacy for your children and future generations. (See Services for more information) 
If you have chosen to use the trust plan, a Visio diagram is used to visually describe how the trust will work during your lifetime to support the management of your assets and how your assets will transfer at your death.  Funding your trust by transferring ownership of your assets from yourself to the trust is also discussed.  You will receive a spreadsheet of your assets to show how they are currently owned.  The spreadsheet assists you and the firm in tracking the transfer of asset ownership to the trust.  You will receive a Funding Toolkit with instructions on asset transfers.  We also provide unlimited assistance if you are funding the trust yourself.  A deed transferring ownership immediately to your trust is also signed at this meeting.  The firm handles recording your deed. 

The Third Meeting

This isn’t called the final meeting because this is the beginning of a lifetime relationship.  At this meeting you receive your original documents.  You also receive all your signed documents recorded on a CD.  Copies of your health care documents are provided.  With your permission, the firm mails a copy of your General Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney to the people you have listed as your agent along with a letter describing their responsibilities and duties.  The firm also mails a copy of your Medical Information Disclosure Release to the people you have named in the document.

At this meeting, your asset spreadsheet is updated and any questions about the transfer of assets are answered.

Last but not least, your Priceless Conversation is recorded as the beginning of your legacy library.

Relationship Beginning

In most law firms, the relationship ends when you receive your original documents.   This is where we are very different.  We stay in touch to ensure that your estate plan will continue to fit and work for you as time goes by and your family situation changes.  We also stay in touch in case the law changes.  We do this by contacting you at a minimum of every three years.  At that time, we will make an appointment for you to come in to receive a complimentary review of your estate plan.  Not only does the review keep your plan up to date, it also brings the firm up to date so if something happens to you, valuable time is not lost when the firm helps your family decide what happens next.  You will have peace of mind knowing that we will be here to assist the people you love most.

If a relationship is what you are looking for, call to schedule an appointment now.

SOURCE FOR POST:  Linda Sherfey

How Our Law Firm is Different

Explaining to you how we’re different requires an explanation of what the “traditional” experience with a lawyer is like. If you’ve worked with a lawyer to prepare estate planning documents for you in the past, this will sound familiar.

During the traditional experience, you’ll go in and meet with a lawyer who will oftentimes make things seem very complicated and confusing. You’ll have a good idea that the lawyer is smart and seems to know what she’s doing, so you’ll nod and answer questions, as if you understand everything. Because you want to do the right thing for your family, you’ll have the lawyer prepare documents for you and you’ll sign the documents, feeling relieved that you’ve got that taken care of.

You’ll take your fancy planning binder home, stick it on a shelf or in a drawer, mark estate planning off on your checklist as DONE and never think about it again.

You might remember your lawyer said something about moving your bank accounts into the trust. So you’ll go to the bank, forget what you were supposed to do, call your lawyer’s office, get a voicemail, have to leave the bank and wait for a call back, (which takes several hours at least and sometimes days) and by that time, you’ll have gotten busy with other things and never get around to moving that bank account.

A few weeks later, you’ll get a bill in the mail for $67.50 for 15 minutes of your lawyer’s time for answering a couple of questions. You’ll make a mental note – don’t call lawyer ever again.

Several years later, you’ll refinance your house or sell it and buy a new one and forget that you were supposed to let your lawyer know or make sure you kept the title in the name of the trust.

Your children will get older, making your guardianship choices outdated, but you don’t want to call your lawyer because you know you’ll get a bill in the mail two weeks later.

You’ll hear something about a change in the tax law, but you figure you’d surely get a letter in the mail from your lawyer if it was something that affected you, so you don’t worry about it. And, you’d have to dig through boxes to find your trust documents so you could remember your lawyer’s name and find her contact information. Who has time for that?

If You Need Help, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can most add value during this time of financial turmoil. It’s been weighing on my mind. 
I’m not worried about the economy. I know it will bounce back. What I’m worried about is your reaction to the economy.

You are stressed to the max already. You are wondering what will happen. Watching CNBC, CNN, the nightly news. Scanning the internet.

And yet, very few of you are talking about how it’s affecting YOU. As if not talking about it will make it go away.

It won’t.    
Maybe you’ve been flying blind up until now because you’ve been embarrassed to ask for help.

Stop doing that.

Now is the time to reach out.

If you are facing mountains of debt and don’t know how you are going to get out the mess you are in, don’t keep it a secret.If you are building your business and need the inspiration to keep going, ask for support. If you are wondering whether you are on the right track, don’t wonder alone.

If you’ve got more than $100,000 in the bank, make sure it’s protected.  Download an easy to understand report on keeping your money safe. FDIC insurance can be confusing.  This report simplifies it.

Over the next few week, I’ll be posting a series of articles by nationally known experts on how you can prosper now, why being poor for a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and how to find the golden opportunities that are right beneath your feet.

Read them, share them, and talk to me about them.

If you are a client, call the office. We’re here for you. Our Family Wealth VIP program was created just for this purpose. So, we can provide you with ongoing personalized guidance without charging you hourly fees.

If you’re not a client, you can reach me here through my blog or at I’ll do my best to respond to your needs.

It’s time to ask for help and guidance. There’s nothing to be embarrassed, afraid or ashamed of. Your questions are valid and deserve to be answered. I’ve been there and I’m here now. Ask away.