To the Editor: Pay lawyers for their time, not on the value of estate
Written by Dick Conrad   
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 10:39
An older couple I have known for years visited a local law firm. Their will was over 50 years old. I recommended they consider a revocable trust. The attorney said that there really wasn't much difference in the cost of the will and the trust and the will would be easier and quicker to complete. So they decided on the will.
After the husband died, among the many papers to be signed was a simple statement about the payment of fees. The fee schedule was based up on the value of the estate. When the final bill came, for what was a fairly simple estate, it was for over $16,000.
We could not believe the amount, especially considering the expenses for processing the estate for two relatives, one who lived in Bowling Green and the other who lived in New Jersey, was considerably less. Both estates were more than twice the value of the above estate. And, the cost of processing the BG estate was $6,000 and the NJ estate was under $3,500.
I have seen estimates where the "opening of an estate" takes 4-6 hours, the administration of the estate is based upon the complexity of the estate and the "closing of the estate" would be another 4-6 hours. Since we did part of the leg work in putting together the necessary paper for the estate (administration), I would guess that the lawyers' total effort probably did not exceed 20 hours (mostly done by a clerk of secretary). The $16,000 bill amounts to over $800 per hour.
The moral of the story is: the lawyer is the professional. They have processed hundreds if not thousands of estates. They know exactly what they are doing. In retrospect, you should never pay a lawyer based upon the value of the estate. You pay a lawyer for the fair value for their time. An amount agreed upon before you start and with an estimate of the final cost.
Dick Conrad
Bowling Green
 

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