Some Questions We Get Asked About Contract Disputes

Q
What does an initial consultation cost?
A An initial consultation generally extends one hour, sometimes a little more. We will hear your story, look at your pertinent documents, explain the law to you, and then talk about the costs and benefits of going forward. The cost of the consultation is $300. At the time you make your appointment, we will take your credit card information to reserve the appointment and charge you the Session fee if you fail to show up or do not cancel 48 hours before the appointment.
Q
Why do you charge for the consultation?
A At one time, we did free consultations, but we found out over the years that that was not good for us or the clients. Why the change? First, my time – like yours – is valuable, and I – like you — have no time for tire-kickers or people who cannot keep their word. Second, you will get out of the consultation with a clear understanding of your problem and ideas as to how to proceed, whether you hire us or not. Third, a lawyer who is not getting paid for his time with you will feel pressure to sign you up, so that he gets something out of the consultation. I don’t have that problem.
Q
How do I pick a lawyer for my case?
ACompetence matters, but how do you measure that as a layman? Experience matters, and you can measure years, though that is not always the measure of experience. So what do you look for? In life, are you more inclined to give things to people whom you like and make you feel good, or to a jerk? You’re asking a judge or a jury to give you something, and your lawyer is your spokesman. So you want a lawyer whom the judge or jury can relate to, feel secure with, want to give to.
Q
But don’t I need the most aggressive lawyer I can get?
A Not necessarily. If your objective is simply to make the other side as miserable as possible, then hire the kamikaze lawyer. But if your objective is the best possible result for yourself, you need someone who understands people and knows when to attack and when to lay back. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to litigation.
Q
How do I know you’re not going to stretch this out to get as much money as you can from me?
A I am aware of the rap on lawyers, and there are certainly some bad apples in law, as in any other industry. But bottom line, I’m trying to maintain and build a business, just like the local plumber or baker or contractor. If I take advantage of people, the word will spread, and my business will not last long.
Q
Why should I come in now? Why not wait until things get pressing?
A Because most disputes are won or lost as a result of things that happen before the client gets to a lawyer. For instance, in daily life we engage in oral communications all the time and trust what we hear from the other person. But in court, non-written communications leave us with “he said she said”. The longer the party does things in his usual way, the harder his case will be to prove. Often, if a client comes in early enough, I can advise them as to what to do to avoid the dispute altogether. That client consultation could save the client tens of $1000s. It just makes no sense to wait.

Some Questions We Get Asked About Estate Planning

Q
Who needs an estate plan?
A If you’re alive, you need an estate plan. 69% of Americans have no plan at all, and of the rest, most have simple wills or plans that will not protect their families. Why? Maybe the thought is that planning is only for old people, or that the whole thing is too complicated, or too expensive, or that it involves contemplating one’s own death. But the fact is that people die or become incapacitated whether they are young or old. And a good lawyer can make the process understandable. And the expense of a plan is tiny compared to what is saved by a good plan. And planning for one’s death simply makes living in the moment more peaceful.
Q
How do I know if my estate is large enough to justify a plan?
A Your estate includes things you may not have thought of: your home, your personal possessions, insurance, retirement plans, stocks and bonds, annuities, your bank accounts. If these things amount to more than $100,000, a will is not enough and you need a trust-based estate plan. Why? To control what goes to whom. To stay out of court. To prevent family conflicts. To make sure your children don’t get your assets before they are ready. To provide for your incapacity. To make sure your children go to the right people if they are still minors. To provide for medical decisions you are not able to make for yourself. To provide for your burial or cremation. To provide for a relative with special needs.
Q
Estate planning is just about money and assets, right?
A No. The most important part of your legacy is not your assets but your spiritual and moral values, your life story, the lessons you want to pass on. These are priceless. In my view, a good estate plan must provide you an opportunity to pass these on as well as your assets.
Q
What is the cost of a Family Wealth Planning Session?
A The Family Wealth Planning Session – which is your initial meeting with me — extends over two hours. The first hour is educating you and my becoming knowledgeable about your life situation. The second hour is putting together your plan and explaining it to you. The fee is $500, but it will be waived if you fill out an inventory assessment that I provide you before the session. At the time you make your appointment, we will take your credit card information to reserve the appointment and charge you $250 if you fail to show up or do not cancel 48 hours before the appointment.
Q
Why do you charge for the Family Wealth Planning Session?
A Because the FWPS, along with the inventory assessment you will be required to fill out beforehand, will make a major contribution to your life, whether you hire us or not. That process will provide you, probably for the first time, with a clear picture of your financial situation and the priorities, both financial and otherwise, in your life.
Q
What is the cost of an estate plan?
A I can tell you that the average estate plan is $2-8,000. But I cannot be more specific until we are in the Family Wealth Planning Session. During the session, you will make choices as to what you want, and those choices will determine the cost. But the important thing is that, after the first hour of the session, you will know exactly what the plan will cost you. There will be no additional mysterious charges or hourly fees.
Q
I have a will. Why isn’t that good enough?
A Having a will is almost worse than having nothing because the family thinks they’re protected when they’re not. Why isn’t a will enough? Lots of reasons. Your family will definitely end up in probate court. What does that mean? Lawyers, fees and costs could eat up 5% of the estate (or much more if an executor is appointed). That is probably much more than the cost of an estate plan now. All decisions will be made by a judge who knows nothing about your family. Strange things happen when people die, and the family may find itself in a war over assets or custody of children that you would never have expected. If you left minor children behind, there could be fights over who will be their guardian. While they’re minors, those children will only get what the executor decides, and when they turn 18, everything is turned over to the children whether they have the maturity to handle it or not. Also, a will does not address your situation if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions. Don’t rely on a will.
Q
Why can’t I just go get the documents I need from Legal Zoom or one of those other internet document providers?
A Estate plans are not cheap, so I understand people trying to cut corners by using one of the internet providers. But that is a big mistake. Estate planning is not one size fits all. Nor is it something you do one time and then check it off your list. Any experienced estate lawyer can give you horror stories of people who have come to them with documents gathered over the internet or from a lawyer who was cutting corners that just don’t work. Your plan must fit your particular life situation. Laymen who use internet documents don’t even know the questions, much less the answers, that determine what combination will serve them. That is why the vast majority of people who use internet providers end up going to a lawyer anyway. You need a lawyer with whom you can have an ongoing relationship to make necessary adjustments. The internet providers cannot do that and don’t try.
Q
My mate and I are fairly young, and our children are real young. So what’s the rush?
A Most people think estate planning is just for old people. That’s why almost 70% of Americans have no plan in place at all, and most of the rest have wills which will not do what people think they will. Because of their age, older people are more conscious of the need to plan, and act on it more. But younger people die every day – on freeways, at work, of disease. And then things look very different. An older couple that dies leaves behind children who are grown and mature. A younger couple that dies or becomes incapacitated leaves behind minor children who are defenseless. You may think your extended family will take over, but the police cannot allow that without documentation. And again, the family may end up in court fighting to keep the wrong person from taking the child. We have a unique product called a Kids Protection Plan which keeps children from having to go through all this. Putting off the protection of your children is playing with fire.
Q
Why do I need a Kids Protection Plan? If something happens to me and my mate, my family will handle the kids.
A This is an assumption made by many families, especially close ones. Unfortunately, however, if there is no guardianship documentation available, the police will be required to deliver the children to CPS. What will follow is an expensive and sometimes ugly court battle over custody of the children. And there is no guarantee that the judge, a stranger to the family, will deliver the children to the person you would want. A Kids Protection Plan prevents all this and more.
Q
I got an estate plan years ago. Why do I need to see you?
AYou may not. The problem is that, as your life changes, so must your estate plan. Too many people get their plan documents and put them on a shelf, which has the effect of leaving everything you acquire after that point outside the protection of the trust. Also, a lot of estate plans become ineffective because title to your assets is not properly transferred to the trust. Some lawyers stay with you through that process, but many do not. And you don’t want a trust that protects nothing because it contains nothing. Getting a review of your existing estate plan protects you against both of these threats.