Upfront, it is important to understand that there is no flat rate or definite cost for drafting your estate documents. The price of your last will and testament and other necessary estate planning documents from a Tennessee estate lawyer will depend on certain circumstances. Some of the factors that impact estate planning legal costs include the size of your estate, the diversity of assets you own or control, and the number of people who are heirs to your assets and personal property.
Yet, you need to understand the price of your estate planning before hiring a Tennessee estate lawyer. An engagement letter will state an estimate of your legal fees or an hourly rate for a Tennessee estate lawyer, but you may want to know the price of your will before this point. By asking some questions in an initial consultation you can better understand the potential costs.
At Suber, Asher, Suber & Moushon, PLLC, we encourage clients to know from the onset the approximate cost of their estate planning. Here are four questions we think someone in need of estate planning should ask a Tennessee lawyer.
#1: Do You Charge a Flat Fee or Hourly Rate?
In Tennessee, there are two distinct ways for a Tennessee estate lawyer to bill an estate client – flat fee or hourly rate. Most lawyers in Nashville, Murfreesboro, and the surrounding areas still charge clients at an hourly rate. This rate can fluctuate from lawyer to lawyer based on experience, size of the law firm, the complexity of the work, and reputation of that Tennessee estate lawyer.
Some Tennessee law firms are moving to a flat fee format for estate planning. Clients are quotes a set and specific amount for drafting a last will and testament, healthcare power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and other estate planning documents. The flat fee for your estate planning will depend on the documents needed to properly administer your estate and assets. For example, the fee is higher if you need to create a revocable or living trust.
#2: What Is Included in an Estimate of Legal Fees?
If you received a quote to remodel your kitchen or renovate a bathroom, you would want to know exactly what was covered by the costs. In the instance of home improvement, you would ask questions regarding countertops, flooring, paint, and touchups. Yet, clients rarely ask these same detailed questions of a Tennessee estate lawyer.
Your Tennessee estate plan is much more than a will. It may include five, nine, or twenty different documents. A comprehensive estate plan can also require substantial investigative work and review by an experienced lawyer. Is all of this legal work covered in your initial quote? Before you sign an engagement letter, you should ask a Tennessee estate lawyer for the specifics of your plan and whether all the work is covered by the provided quote.
#3: What Happens If Work on My Will Exceeds the Fee Estimate?
Tennessee has strict requirements overbilling and fees for any Tennessee estate lawyer. There are rules that regulate where and how client funds can be stored and how to hold a retainer (see question four) once paid by a client. Despite these ethical requirements, there is still some discretion for a Tennessee estate lawyer to handle a case that goes above and beyond the fee estimate.
You want a Tennessee lawyer that agrees to adhere to the original estimate or inform you immediately. There shouldn’t be an unexpected bill or an exceptional monthly cost. Rather, you can work with a Tennessee estate lawyer that gives you a reasonable and fair estimate; then, provides a clear explanation for any additional fees before they are incurred.
#4: Do You Charge a Retainer for Estate Planning?
A retainer is a set amount of money or funds that a client pays a Tennessee estate lawyer in advance of completing the legal work. Once paid, the retainer is held in a separate bank account, specifically created for the purpose of keeping client funds, until withdrawals are made. As fees are incurred, most often against the lawyer’s hourly rate, the amount is deducted from the retainer.
Lawyers across the state have different policies on retainers and what is deducted against the funds. Clients sometimes view retainers negatively because it is necessary to pay a substantial amount of your legal fees upfront. However, retainers provide protections for both estate planning lawyers and clients. Lawyers have some assurance of payment for their services. Clients feel more in control of legal costs and the total cost of their estate planning work.
Other Questions on the Cost of Your Will
Do you have other cost and fee questions for a Tennessee estate lawyer? We welcome all of your questions at Surber, Ashers, Suber & Moushon, PLL. We even provide the answers in a straightforward and relaxed environment during a free one-hour consultation in our local offices. To schedule your conversation with an estate planning lawyer, call us at (615) 997-1908.