Here are some tips to reduce your legal bills!

Estate Planning/Long Term Care Planning

  1. Fill out the Planning questionnaire as completely as possible. Most attorneys have some type of pre-meeting questionnaire which he/she uses to gather essential information. Even if you think the attorney does not need certain information, please provide it. The initial meeting will be much shorter and more efficient if the information on the questionnaire is complete prior to the meeting. In addition, if your attorney has requested that you bring copies of certain documents to the meeting, please try to bring them. For example, it is often important that the attorney sees copies of your bank statements so he/she can confirm the name on each account in case he/she need to recommend a division of assets as part of an estate plan. It takes time to follow up with you for missing information, and this causes increased fees.
  2. Decide in advance who will be your fiduciaries. If possible, think about who you want to serve as the Personal Representative (Executor) of your will, trustee of your trust, guardians of your minor children, agent under your Durable Power of Attorney and agent under your Health Care Proxy. Also think about who will be a back up in the event your first choice is unavailable or resigns. Bring full contact information for all these people, including home and mobile phone numbers.
  3. Bring copies of previous estate planning documents, deed(s) to your properties and declaration of homestead. If you can provide your attorney with copies of your original documents, he/she may be able to amend them instead of completely revising them thus saving money. Also if you can bring copies of your deed(s) and declarations of homestead (if any) that will save time tracking down the documents.
  4. Think about questions in advance. Have your questions ready to save time thinking out loud or avoid forgetting questions.
  5. Read documents carefully before the execution meeting. The execution meeting should not involve making changes or lengthy discussions of the provisions of the documents. Ideally, questions and concerns have been previously addressed at the initial meeting and after you have reviewed your drafts. If you have corrections or changes, please send them to your attorney in advance, preferably in writing. The most efficient way to conduct the execution is for you to read the documents at home and contact your attorney with questions and changes before you come in.

Medicaid Applications

The key to keeping Medicaid application costs low is simple: collect as many of the verifications as possible by yourself. Although your attorney can do this work for you, there is a higher cost involved. If you want to minimize costs you can obtain all the verifications yourself. This not only eliminates the cost of obtaining and pursuing the documents but also the cost of preparing the necessary authorizations for your attorney’s office to obtain information on your behalf. You can also do a first draft of the Medicaid application in pencil.

When your attorney requests additional information, please provide it as soon as possible. It takes time to make multiple reminder calls and letters to you. Another way to reduce costs is to provide your attorney with one copy of each of your verifications.

Probate

As with Medicaid applications, you can save money by gathering the probate information yourself. The work may involve collecting bank statements, arranging real estate appraisals, and/or appraisals of personal items.

If your probate involves an estate tax return, you can save money by sending your attorney all the requested information as soon as possible.

If you need certified copies of your appointment as personal representative, guardian or conservator, it saves time if you can wait until the attorney is in court on another matter and he/she can pick up your copies while he/she is already in court. If the attorney makes a special trip into court just to obtain your certified copy the time involved could be 2 hours or more.

With probate and guardianship/conservatorships there is a quite a bit of work which can not be delegated to the client. Please remember that a trip to court may take time because of court delays in the process outside of our control. A typical court appearance involves 3-4 hours.