I grew up in an environment where people seldom sought the services of an attorney. Speaking for myself I would never want to go to an attorney and wonder what the final bill would be. Therefore, I charge clients my normal hourly rate for the first consultation and cap the charge at 1 hour of time despite the fact that we might meet more than 1 hour for the first meeting. At this meeting I will ask the client to bring in a list of assets, describing what they own and their guess as to value. With this list in hand I describe to them the legal system, how it works, ways to avoid probate, the Alaska Community Property option if married, the federal estate and generation skipping transfer tax regime, beneficiary options and the manner in which tax deferred accounts should be handled.
After receiving information about the client(s)’s circumstances I will then recommend an option, with the final choice being of course that of the client. I have flat fees, but what I will charge depends upon what option is best for the client. The reason I have flat fees is so the client won’t be guessing what the final bill will be.
Assuming the client agrees to proceed, we set a date when the documents will be completed and the date when the client will come back into the office after having had a chance to review the documents. At that meeting I will answer questions, make changes if needed, and the documents will be signed. I will then instruct the client how to implement the estate plan which has been put into place.
Typically I do not charge clients for routine phone calls and in fact invite phone calls so the client will not hesitate to call me if they have a question.