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Is flat fee legal representation truly the best option?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Estate Planning |

One of the more common reasons that people delay formal estate planning is concern about the expense involved. Many people worry that they may have to spend thousands of dollars putting together documents and reviewing their financial records with an attorney.

Some lawyers capitalize on that economic concern by engaging in deceptive marketing practices. They may claim to offer robust estate planning services at a flat rate. Flat-fee attorney services may seem like a cost-effective solution, but many clients end up surprised by how much they actually have to pay for the legal services that they secure.

Others may end up disappointed with the quality of the advice and documents they receive. What are some issues prospective clients need to know about before hiring a lawyer on a flat fee basis?

Flat-rate representation isn’t necessarily the best

A layer advertising their services for a flat rate hopes to bring in as many clients as possible and do as little work as possible for each client. They depend on volume, and the quality of representation isn’t necessarily the same as it might be with an attorney charging by the hour. Attorneys cost, on average, more than $300 per hour for legal advice and representation. Someone who needs help creating or updating an estate plan may be better served by paying an attorney hourly and getting the best support possible rather than looking for discount options of questionable quality.

Flat-rate pricing isn’t transparent

Attorneys often have much fine print involved in their contracts for flat fee services. That flat fee may only cover a certain amount of time or specific types of documents. Anyone requiring additional review or facing unusual circumstances may not be eligible for flat-rate services. Additionally, lawyers may charge them a la carte or hourly for any extra work required. What seemed like a competitive flat rate may end up turning into thousands of dollars in additional costs when someone needs a trust or powers of attorney.

Particularly when the flat rate is for estate administration or probate services, a lawyer could take unethical steps to justify billing a client for more than the agreed-upon fee. Some lawyers even intentionally contribute to disputes as a way to increase what they can charge their clients because a dispute arises. Overall, it is often a much better option to hire a lawyer based on their experience and how well what they offer aligns with an individual’s needs. Those who sit down to talk about their needs with a lawyer they can trust may feel more comfortable about their final decision regarding who they hire.

Prioritizing thoroughness and experience is often better than focusing solely on advertised prices when hiring a lawyer for estate planning purposes. Those who understand the shortcomings of flat fee illegal representation can more effectively avoid scenarios in which they end up paying far more than they budgeted for while estate planning.