Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does it take to prepare an estate plan?
This is an interactive process. I get a lot of my information during the initial interview, but I usually have to give you “homework,” such as finding the deeds to your house and other real property, locating statements to all your bank accounts, 401(k) accounts and IRAs you own, and so forth. If we move quickly, I could probably get from the initial interview to the meeting to sign the estate documents in two to three weeks. If the estate is complicated, requires additional research or involves assets in other jurisdictions, I might need a month or more to complete the plan.
I always keep you informed about the progress on the project. You can always call me or email me with questions.
Why should I work with Michael rather than working with a paralegal or doing the estate plan on my own?
I do charge more than what a paralegal would charge, and you can certainly prepare a plan without an attorney. If your estate is simple, and you’re willing to invest some time in learning how to prepare a trust, a will, a durable power of attorney and other estate planning documents, you may be able to do this on your own. I recommend the resources at Nolo Press for motivated do-it-yourselfers. You can also work with a paralegal, but they are not allowed to give legal advice.
There are important advantages to working with a licensed attorney such as Michael:
- I spend hours each month keeping up on the law in estate planning and in estate and gift taxation. The rules in this area of law are constantly changing. It can cost you thousands of dollars in taxes, for example, if you get something wrong.
- I am licensed by the state of California, and I carry malpractice insurance, so you have recourse if there is a problem. You really can’t do much if a paralegal makes a mistake in your tax planning which costs you thousands of dollars.
- I will badger you to get the information I need so that we can finalize your estate plan and get it signed!
What do I get when I hire Michael to do an estate plan?
For the typical married couple, for example, I prepare a revocable trust, mutual wills, and mutual durable powers of attorneys, and I assist in completing advance health care directives. The most important thing I provide is peace of mind. When you have worked through the estate planning process with me and have signed the documents, you will have taken a huge step towards protecting your family.
How do you charge for your services?
When I am able, I like to charge a flat rate for projects. My business clients appreciate knowing in advance what a project will cost. They like to plan ahead and don’t like surprises, especially bills that are higher than estimated.
Unfortunately, I cannot always charge a flat rate when we have to go to court. Getting involved in a lawsuit means that you have to deal with other parties whose actions you cannot control. Even in court cases, however, I try to quote a flat rate for specific projects whenever possible.
What sorts of matters do you work on under the category “business law?”
I regularly handle issues such as the formation of companies (LLC’s corporations, S corporations, general partnerships, limited partnerships, sole proprietorships), the negotiation of contracts, the negotiation of sales of businesses, the hiring, supervising and termination of employees, the collection of debts, the enforcement of judgments.
But I consider “business law” to be helping business owners solve their legal problems. Regardless of the legal question involved, I will help you find a solution. Many times I can answer a question based on my years of experience as a practicing attorney; sometimes I might need to research a few points before being able to answer a question definitively. If the question requires the input of a specialist in a particular field, I can help you find the individual who can address your concerns in an efficient manner and at a reasonable price.
The most important thing to remember is that I will guide you so that you can make informed decisions about your legal problem—such as whether to pursue a court case or not, whether to settle a lawsuit or to continue litigating, whether to set up an LLC or to remain as a sole proprietor, whether to hire an employee or to use an independent contractor, whether to accept an offer for the purchase of your business or to counter as a different price or with different terms, and so forth.