The websites of general practice lawyers, as well as those of large, mega law firms, almost always include “Wills & Trusts” or “Wills & Estates” as practice areas. If you went by the sheer number of lawyers with this listing, you would probably conclude two things: First, almost everyone in a community has, or is looking for, an estate plan. Second, estate planning is something that does not require a lawyer who dedicates his practice just to that area. Of course, you’d be wrong on both accounts.
Contributing to this problem are two conclusions driven by changes in society. One, folks have discounted the value of counseling and advice from a professional. Out of a sense of ego or skepticism of people trying to “sell” them something, people have started replace the advice and counsel of a professional with knowledge gained by their own research, usually on the Internet.
Second, people now view professional services as the commodity of what is produced at the end of the service. If it has to do with life insurance, people focus on the price of the premium, without understanding the intricacies of the policies themselves and without understanding the quality of the underwriting. In the estate planning world, the focus is on the “it” of the documents – whatever “it” turns out to be for that client – a will, a trust, a living will, a power of attorney.
The unenlightened have already concluded from their own research what they need and they call around shopping that commodity on price.
While I take a long time to settle on a professional to help me in different areas (usually I trust my gut), once I chose that person, I rely on their expertise in helping me with my problems. The cost of the service is only relevant to whether the advice and service does what it’s supposed to do.
The truth is that to maximize the chance that your estate plan works when you need it to – you need an attorney who makes doing this work the focus of their practice. Your estate plan is no different than dealing with a medical condition – in most cases, you need a specialist who has seen your situation lots of other times and can apply their additional expertise and knowledge to help your specific problem. When it becomes appropriate, you begin to interview and select a cardiologist to treat you. Not only that, but you might go with the cardiologist who specializes in diabetes – adult onset diabetes.
Not all estate planning professionals are the same – you deserve the specialist.
Posted by Victor Medina
Medina, Martinez & Castroll, LLC
*By the way, if you’re one of the ones shopping on price, let me save you a phone call to my office. I’ll give you here the same response I give anyone who calls asking what the price for “it” (the will, the trust, etc.) is: It’s FREE. All of my wills are FREE. The trust is FREE and so is the living will. Never have and never will.
On the other hand, I charge for the counseling. Whether I’m worth my fee for that counseling is up to you to decide and I invite you make a free, no-obligation appointment to learn more. Reference this blog post and I will waive my normal $750 evaluation fee.*