Like clockwork every year, the day after school starts, our phones at LayRoots start ringing off the hook. Parents emerging from the “summer fog” as one client put it, are ready to get estate planning off the to-do list.
Many of these parents want to know our rates. They ask some variation of “what do you charge for [blank]?” Any decent estate planning attorney hates this question due to the ol’ lawyer motto…it depends.
And I get it…people want to make a budget and have an idea of what type of investment they are getting ready to shell out. I believe the reason most people ask about cost is that it is something they can understand. Most people don’t know enough about the details of estate planning to compare anything but the dollar bills.
Here are some fun analogies to drive home the point.
If you are old enough to remember working with travel agents, imagine calling one up and asking “how much is a plane ticket?”
They’d need a lot more information to give you a quote like where you want to go? Do you want to fly first, business or coach? Do you want a direct flight or do you want to save $100 by doing a couple of connecting flights?
All of those things factor into a quote for a plane ticket. And what if you were traveling from Seattle to Tacoma? The agent would tell you you don’t need a place ticket. Take a bus, my friend!
My latest favorite is to imagine I’m selling some cars. Here it goes:
“How much are your cars?” I’ve got one for $10,000 and one for $20,000.
“Ahh…well I saw one one the internet for $300.”
Right!? If you called a car dealership and all they told you was price, you’d probably have a bunch of follow up questions. What brand? How many miles? Air brakes? 249 point safety inspection? Warranty? Free oil changes for life? Show me the CARFAX!
You would need to have a lot of information to understand the value of the three different cars. Maybe you don’t want to buy a 1973 (exploding) Ford Pinto for $300. Maybe you live in Seattle and the $10,000 car is a 10-year-old Subaru with 200,000 miles (is there no respect for Blue Book Value here!?). Maybe you want to shell out $20,000 for a great deal on a Volvo with the highest safety ratings in business.
As you see, it takes a lot of information to understand the value you receive for your dollars. Estate planning might initially all seem the same, but there is a world of difference depending on what your goals and intentions are. Going beyond the sticker price will let you know whether you are getting an old Ford Pinto or a safe Volvo to drive your family to Tacoma.
Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya.