Estate Planning: Free Consultation vs. Fee-Based Consultation

Some estate planning attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Others do not. What’s the difference and which scenario works better for you?

Estate Planning Starts with Meeting Prep

Estate planning—whether that first meeting is free or fee-based—usually begins with a comprehensive questionnaire and a list of documents for you to gather before the consultation. Many new clients are surprised with the number of documents required for estate planning—as well as the time it can take to collect them. But this preparation, in addition to getting your papers collected and organized, also will help you get your thoughts collected and organized.

The meeting prep is time-consuming but well worth it. You’ll arrive at your initial consultation with a lot of questions—and that’s a good thing.

Estate Planning Is a Complex Strategy

Why all the meeting prep? An estate plan is a complex strategy to make sure that you’re able to pass along as much of your wealth as possible to the people you choose. As a result, effective estate planning has a lot of critical moving parts. While tax considerations are some of the most important aspects of estate planning, additional moving parts include things like veteran status, children with special needs, family-owned businesses, blended families, college financial aid, and Medicaid qualification.

Every family situation is different, and all the parts need to be addressed for an effective estate plan. Additionally, each part needs to dovetail with the others without causing an unintentional result.

Good Communication Is Essential

So, which is better: a free or a fee-based consultation? Good communication is essential to the estate planning process so it’s important to find an attorney you are comfortable working with. Here is how your needs might inform your choice.

I Need to Get to Know You

A free consultation will likely be a brief get-to-know you meeting. The attorney may take a look at the materials you’ve prepared but is unlikely to invest much time in reviewing them before a free consultation. With no attorney-client relationship in place, you will receive only general information about estate planning because the attorney is not in a position to offer legal advice. A free consultation may be the way to go if:

  • Working with an attorney is new to you.
  • Personality fit is important to your communication style.
  • You don’t have local family or friends to make a referral.
  • You have the time to invest in exploring options.

I Need to Get It Done

In a fee-based consultation, the attorney and office staff will likely spend time preparing for the meeting. With a thorough understanding of your family dynamics, your needs, and your assets, the attorney will be able to get to work right away, asking follow-up questions and—with an engagement letter in place—offering counsel at the first meeting. The fee-based consultation may be the right choice for you if:

  • You’re already comfortable working with attorneys.
  • You have a great referral from a trusted resource.
  • You don’t have a lot of time to invest in the process.
  • You’re ready to hit the ground running.

Work with an Experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney

The most important thing to do is to take that first step. If you’re ready to begin the estate planning journey, contact us today for your initial consultation.