Usually, I try to keep these blog posts focused on substantive estate planning or business law education. Today, however, focuses more on a question that seems like a mystery in the legal world today: “what are the fees?”
That’s a good question, and it’s sometimes hard to say for a good reason: every case is different. That being said, I’ll walk you through a few types of fee systems in today’s post.
1. Business Services
Simple Business Organizations: Most small businesses are simple to set up. We offer a low flat-rate fixed fee to obtain an Employer Identification Number, register the business with the state of Utah, and, if necessary, file with the IRS to obtain “S-Corp” status. As of the time of this publication, our flat fee for that service in Utah is $300, which includes the state’s $70 registration fee but excludes any other local or regulatory fees.
Operating agreements, officer elections, minutes for annual meeting, and resolution establishing banking authority: These simple and often required forms are very simple for most small businesses where husband and wife are owners. They become increasingly complicated as different individuals, relationships, and business planning objectives come into play. For most small businesses, these services range between $200-1,000 depending on the level of complexity involved. Larger operations or businesses with unique needs sometimes exceed this amount, but a rate quote is always provided before work begins.
Hourly business services: Anything not listed above usually falls under an hourly system rather than a flat fee system. This happens when the service scope is more difficult to estimate up front. We always do our best to provide an accurate estimate, and often absorb the cost of time exceeding the estimate.
2. Estate Planning Services
Every estate is different and there are dozens of variables at play. That being said, the fee structure usually follows the complexity of the case, and covers four main components: 1) gathering needed information; 2) drafting the documents; 3) execution of documents; and 4) implementation and follow-up.
My practice is heavily-focused on estate planning, so research time is never a component of the fee as in most firms. The initial consultation is likewise not a component for billing purposes. Instead, most of the fee is based on the time needed to draft, execute, and implement the plan. A flat rate is usually quoted at the initial consultation.
The drafting of an estate plan, historically, was perhaps the largest part of the bill. However, modern technology has made it possible to enter client information and have a template within minutes. The drafting time, then, is limited to the time it takes to customize the plan to the family dynamic, goals, and asset profile instead of wasting time on standard language. This software allows me to take 40% less time than a traditional copy/paste template method, so those savings are passed on to the client.
Simple Will-based plans tend to start around $400 for individuals and $600 for couples. As we add business interests or children from prior marriages, the complexity and fee increases, but rarely do Will-based plans exceed $1,000.
Living Trust-based plans tend to start around $1,000 for the Trust, pour-over Will, advance health care directive, power of attorney, and deed and title work. As we add business interests, complex family structures, and high-value assets, the complexity and fee increases. Most middle-class families tend to spend around $1,200-1,400, but Living Trust-based plans can sometimes exceed $3,000.
Asset Protection Trust-based plans are much more complex and customized than Living Trust plans, so they tend to range between $2,000-6,000 for the complete service. Factors determining cost include family structure; value of assets; degree of control of assets; and required maintenance and monitoring.
3. Estate Administration Services
Probate: Any estate administration involving probate relies on the court system. The court’s fees for most probates tend to average $400 from beginning to end of the process. Some probate proceedings also require a published notice in the paper that can run anywhere between $250-500. There are other accounting and professional fees that make up a significant component of the costs of probate. Attorney fees for the simplest of probate cases tend to run at least $1,000 but most simple uncontested probate cases tend to require around $1,500 in attorney fees. Obviously, contested probate proceedings and more complex estates cab easily exceed those fees.
Trust Administration: most simple Trusts require little, if any, administration input from an attorney. Some trusts, however, need more attorney involvement. Most Trust Administration projects are billed at an hourly rate.
Conclusion: I hope you have found this helpful in understanding how our fee structure works. If you would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to us with any questions you have by calling us at 435-572-0807.