Frequently Asked Questions:
How much do you charge?
The legal fees charged will depend on the type of matter. For estate planning matters, a flat fee is usually charged. This type of charge is used for wills and trusts and is based upon the complexity of the drafting required (i.e., the type of distributions [outright vs. ongoing trusts for beneficiaries] and the level of tax planning required [taxable vs. non-taxable estates]. We should be able to give you a quote after knowing the full details of your planning objectives. Other than wills and trusts, flat rates are charged for real estate deeds and entity formation.
For other matters, an hourly rate may be charged. We will give you an estimate of the number of hours that we believe may be required to complete a matter and the current hourly rate to be charged at our first consultation. There are times when the actual fees may be higher or lower than quoted, but every effort will be made to promptly communicate with you as your legal matter evolves. Hourly rates are charged for the following: probate, estate administration, trust administration, guardianships and conservatorships, premarital agreements, real estate agreements, contracts, estate tax returns, gift tax returns, corporate or other entity agreements (buy-sell), etc.
We also may charge you the costs and expenses that we incur on your behalf, including but not limited to court filing fees, register of deeds filing fees, courier fees, private investigator fees, postage (for large packages) and reproduction charges.
How can I keep my legal fees from getting out of control?
Being organized will help you keep your fees in check. Be prepared for meetings and do your homework. Some client forms are available on the home page of this website. If you call with questions, try to reserve your questions for one phone call or one meeting. Try to avoid using your appointment time or telephone time for venting—although this may be tough since estate planning and probate matters are oftentimes highly emotional. Finally, tell your lawyer all of the details (even the bad ones).
With so many online websites offering legal documents these days, why do I need a lawyer?
Most online documents are not customized for each person’s individual situation. Estate planning is not “one-size fits all.” There are so many options and nuances that most online forms do not even consider. While filling in the blanks may give you a Will, do you know whether it is valid or enforceable? The State of Kansas has certain requirements that must be met for estate planning documents, including durable powers and living wills.
What is probate?
Probate is the term for the legal procedure that wraps up the legal and financial business of a deceased person. Probate is required to transfer title to assets that were held in the sole name of a deceased person without a designated beneficiary. If a Will is involved, it must be offered for probate or preserved in the District Court within six months from the deceased person’s date of death or it may be invalid (there are a few exceptions). Clients often seek to avoid probate because it is public, it takes a certain period of time to conclude, and it may be expensive.
Why do I need a Will or a Trust when all of my assets are in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, transfer on death, pay on death or subject to a beneficiary designation?
Many times we cannot anticipate the sequence of events that may precede someone’s death. What would happen if a beneficiary predeceases you? Does the pay on death provide for the beneficiary’s children? What if someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct causes your death? An estate must be opened to conduct the proceeding. In that case, your heirs at law may receive the proceeds and your heirs at law may be different from your beneficiaries, or you may have beneficiaries that should not have access to large sums of money. Finally, if you inherit property prior to your death that is in your individual name, probate would be required.