5 easy to spot signs your talking to a bad estate planning attorney | Estate Planning Daily 029
Hey everybody, welcome. Not Welcome. I was done my podcast intro.
Hey everybody, this is Christopher Small. I am Christopher Small. I own CMS Law Firm and I want to hop on here real quick and talk to you about what five easy ways to spot a bad estate planning attorney. One of them is not that they give a terrible introduction to their videos, hopefully, because that would mean I’m terrible.
But in any event, I was thinking about what kind of content to create for this video, what to talk about today. And I was thinking about an experience, well every experience that I have with the type of service that legal services is. And that’s the kind of service where you hire somebody to do a job and they do it and when they’re done, you sort of know that it’s been done, but you’re not really sure if it’s been done right, you kind of have to trust the person. And so you have to look for some other signs for competence. You have to look for some other signs that they know what they’re doing. You have to look for some other signs that they are good at what they do.
And for me, this happens to me by the way, in other areas of the law. So if I ever need other attorneys, it’s the same for me. It’s impossible and really difficult for me to find and tell a good attorney from another, like if you’re looking at the Internet. But it also happens to me in other areas where I have no idea what I’m doing, which will be fixing a car. So every time I take my car into the mechanic, I completely understand what you feel like when you are looking for an attorney of any kind and particularly when you’re looking for an estate planning attorney.
Because I don’t really know much about cars. I just know that my car is broken and I want it to be fixed and I know that this person knows how to fix it, I think. And I know that they know what to look for, I think. But I kind of have to believe that they know what they’re doing. And I have to believe when they give me the car back and it’s running, that they’ve actually fixed it and done the right thing. And so estate planning, I see it as being sort of, a lot like that because like I said, you got to come in, we do some work for you, it gets done, you’re signing papers, you can see the tangible things, but it’s hard to know is this the right thing? What’s going on?
So I wanted to sort of put together five quick, easy ways to spot a terrible estate planning attorney. So I guess I’ll give a little caveat, a little disclaimer. Because I am a lawyer and I am, that’s what we do. We disclaim everything. So it is highly likely, it’s possible that you could find someone that has all these characteristics and they were a good estate planning attorney, but I doubt it. Okay? And the other thing is no good estate planning attorney is going to tell you that they have these qualities, so if you see them it’s a good sign that they’re not very good.
Of course, by the way, I would love it if you would consider choosing us, but before we even get there, I have put together a little short estate planning video, sort of a background video. The things that I would tell you if you came in to talk to me as a potential client. I’ve just put that into video form, so you can sort of get educated and learn about estate planning before you even talk to anyone, before you talk to me or anybody else.
To get that, to check that out, you just have to go to estateplanningvideo.com. Super easy, estateplanningvideo.com. When you go there, the video pops up. It’s right there. You can watch it. It’s about, I want to say it’s about 25 minutes long or so, but we cover everything. So go check it out if you’re interested. If you’re not, just keep listening. I’ll tell you how to spot a terrible estate planning attorney. Okay?
Okay, here we go. Let’s dive in. Okay? Let’s just get into the next. So the first way is easy. You can tell by their website and you can tell by just if you ask them what they do. If they tell you 12 different things, they’re not going to be that good. Okay? If they tell you they do estate planning and bankruptcy and family law and business and criminal defense and immigration, I’m trying to think of some more, if they tell you they do a hundred different things it’s a sign that they are just taking anybody that walks in the door and telling everybody that walks in the door that they know what they’re doing. And all in all are probably not servicing anybody very well.
At my firm, we only do estate planning. We only do probate, which is sort of the backend of estate planning, right? We do that for a reason, because we want to be really good at one thing. We want to know one thing really, really well, so that we can service our clients really, really well. And that’s what we do. And there are other estate planning attorneys out there that do that as well. You’ll find a couple of other firms out there that only do estate planning. If you’re going to talk to somebody and it’s not me, I would highly recommend that you talk to them and not to the attorney that is doing everything. Okay? I’ll give you a hint. The person that’s doing everything is going to be cheaper. The reason they’re cheaper is because they suck. Okay? So avoid them. Alright? That’s way number one.
Way number two. And I have notes by the way, it’s what I’m looking now. I can’t keep all this stuff in my head, all this great information. So the second sign that you don’t have a very good estate planning attorney on your hands, and this one by the way is my opinion, but I think having talked to and worked with a bunch of different estate planning attorneys, this one is, I’m pretty confident in this one as well and that is that there’s no flat fee for your basic estate plan creation. Alright?
For me, the clients that come in, we typically do sort of, one of three kind of basic packages. You’ve got your basic package, which is, which is medical power of attorney, power of attorney, healthcare directive, will, disposition instructions. Then you’ve got sort of, your will basic plus trust, is the way I call it and it’s all that other stuff, plus a revocable living trust. And then you’ve got your third package, which is the basic plus an estate tax trust. So there’s a Washington estate tax if, by the way you learn more about all this stuff, about the foundational stuff, go to the link below, estateplanningvideo.com or whatever, type it in, go there. There’s a video where I talk about all this stuff, so you can learn about what these things are like.
But we’ve done a tremendous number of these, a lot of them and we’re good at them. And because we’ve done so many, I know the value that it provides you and I know how long and how hard we have to work to put them together. If you take those two variables, you should be able to reach a number that feels good for you and feels good for me. And I have those numbers. So when you come to me, I just tell you like, “Look, it’s x dollars to do this. That’s it”. I’m not coming back at you with anything extra, there’s no extra fees and you can talk to me as much as you want. I don’t care. Right? We can have a hundred meetings if you want while we’re putting together this plan. It’s this price.
And what you’ll find I think, is that a lot of the less good, a lot of the terrible attorneys out there, they bill by the hour and they want to do that for a reason. That reason is they’re literally trying to suck as much money out of you as they can while they’ve gotten you sort of, on the hook. Okay? They just literally want to just get as much money out of you as you can. Until either you fire them, the job gets done or they have to quit or you run out of money, quite frankly. So look for the attorneys that do flat fees for this kind of stuff because they’re going to be the ones I said, that do it most of the time and are good at it. Okay? That’s number two. They don’t do flat fees for their standard stuff.
Number three. This one’s pretty straight forward. I think it’s across the board. Attorneys are bad at it though generally, and I think people just accept that and deal with it. But they don’t return phone calls or emails in a timely manner and or they’re late to their meetings all the time. If your attorney, prospective attorney is late to the first meeting that they have with you, what do you think that sets the tone for for the rest of your engagement with them? You think they’re going to be on time for anything else? You think they’re going to respect your time? I would say no. So don’t do that.
If somebody says they’re going to have a meeting with you at 2:30 it should be a 2:30 right? Someone says they’re going to have a meeting with you at 12:15, then it should be 12:15. It shouldn’t be 12:30, it shouldn’t be 12:45. Yeah, people run a little bit late from time to time, a couple minutes, that’s understandable. But nobody should keep you waiting. They’re trying to earn your business and for them to do that, I think that shows a little bit of arrogance and lack of customer service that you’re going to find throughout the whole engagement. I own this firm and we place a tremendous level of respect and put a tremendous amount of work into providing really good customer service. And that’s why. So if they’re not calling you back, if they’re not responding to emails timely, especially at the beginning, what can you expect after you’ve already paid them? So that’s the third sign that you’ve got a pretty bad estate planning attorney on your hands. Alright?
Number four. They pressure you into a specific course of action. I know some estate planning attorneys that believe it’s their way or the highway. And they’re going to pressure you into doing it their way, they’re going to try to make you feel bad for doing it any other way than theirs. And oftentimes, not always, by the way, these are not all blanket statements, but because there are other good attorneys out there, not just me, but the bad ones are going to try to make you buy the most expensive package.
And the way that we do our potential client meetings is after you get all the information that’s in the free video that’s at estateplanningvideo.com, go check it out, estateplanningvideo.com, to see the sort of, the foundation in the back end, in the background of what a good estate plan looks like. Once we have that conversation with our clients or our potential clients, I tell them, “Look, I don’t care what you want to do. My goal is to help you protect your family and reach your goals. And now that you have this background information, you can make an informed decision. You tell me what’s important to you and we’ll make it happen”. Right? That’s how we do it. So if they’re trying to push you one specific direction, I would take that as a red flag and I would be very, very wary of that. And B, that would make me nervous. Okay? Because there are a bunch of different ways to do this stuff. The only right way is really the way that works and does what you want for you and your family. Fair enough? Capeesh? I don’t know why I wanted to say that, but I did. Felt good.
Okay. Last but not least, another sign. And this sort of piggy backs a little bit with the last reason, but another sign that you are working with or talking to a bad estate planning attorney or suspect estate planning attorney is that they don’t ask you why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s like, I always use the analogy of a car salesman to sort of demonstrate how this should work, even for estate planning.
So if I go into a car dealership and they ask me what am I looking for? And I say I’m looking for an SUV. And then they just start telling me all of the things that an SUV does and why I should be buying one. They’re kind of missing the mark and chances are I’m not going to actually leave their satisfied because I’m not going to get what I really need. Now, if I would go there and say, “I need an SUV”, and they would say, “Why?” And I’d say, well, I have a family. I have three kids, three small kids, we need a room. I don’t want to drive a minivan because I just don’t. And so that’s really what we’re looking for. Safety’s our number one. Then they can say, “Oh, okay, great. Now that I know what you want, what you’re looking for, here are some of the options. Option number one, super safe, kind of ugly and kind of expensive. Option number two, super safe, kind of cool looking, also expensive. Option number three, kind of cool, super safe, moderately priced”. Right? And then he’ll say, or she, could just say, “What do you want? What do you want now that you can see all the options?” And now that I know what you want, I can put these into context for you.
Same thing for me with estate planning. If you tell me I don’t want to create trust fund babies, it’s really, really important to me. Then I can talk to about estate planning in that context. If you tell me I have a special needs child and I want to make sure they’re taken care of, then I can talk to you about estate planning in that context. If you tell me I got a bunch of crazy relatives and I don’t want them piggy backing off my money when I’m old, then we can talk about those options. Right? But the point is, a good estate planning attorney is going to ask you why? They’re going to say, why are you here? What are your goals and why are those your goals? Tell me a little bit about your family dynamic. Let me learn about you and what’s important to you, so that I can couch our discussion in what’s important to you. Right?
So by the way, if anybody’s watching right now, I know there’s somebody watching. If you can hear me and are even moderately entertained, please say yes in the chat bar, hit the like button, just give me some sign that you can actually hear my voice because I’ve been talking here for awhile and I’m not sure if it’s working.
So in any event, those are the five reasons or five signs, five obvious signs that you’re dealing with kind of a suspect, probably a not very good estate planning attorney. Let me recap them real quick.
Reason number one, they’re doing 12 different things. Estate planning, criminal defense, family law, business, immigration, bankruptcy, that’s bad, that’s not good.
Reason number two, they don’t do flat fees for their sort of standard work. They can’t just tell you a price. That’s a bad sign.
Reason number three, they are not returning phone calls on time. They’re late to your first meeting. You can’t pin them down to even set a first meeting. These are all bad signs that you’re not going to get very good service if you hire them, right?
Reason number four, they pressure you into a very specific kind of plan. They tell you everybody needs a trust or nobody needs a trust or whatever. Whatever that thing is. If they’re trying to pressure you into something and it’s not what you want and they’re not backing off, that’s not good. That’s a bad sign.
And then reason number five is they don’t take the time to find out what you want. Why you’re here for estate planning, what’s important to you, why you want to do it? Alright? If you see those five things that I would count those as red flags. I would go talk to somebody else, hopefully the us.
But in any event, before I let you go, I want to remind you, I put together a foundational estate planning video. It’s free. You can go watch it. It’s easy. You just go to estateplanningvideo.com. It’s right there, it pops up. You can watch the whole thing. It kind of runs through my typical sort of, spiel that I give when people come into the office and talk to me for the first time. It’s the foundation, right? It’ll give you all the information that you need to know to decide whether or not estate planning is even right for you and what to do next.
So again, if you want to check that out estateplanningvideo.com. That’s it. So thank you very much. If you like this video, hit the like button. If you have a comment, leave a comment. Tell me if you agree with me or disagree with me. Maybe if you’ve got an extra idea for signs of bad attorneys. Leave a comment below and then if you know somebody that can use this, share it with them. Alright?
Thank you so much for listening. And I will talk to you all again soon. See Ya.