I cannot count the number of times college age students tell me they want to be an attorney. When I ask them why they want to go to law school I sometimes get confused looks.
Many tell me that they want to make a difference in the world by saving the environment, protecting the innocent, or they are motivated to protect someone from the government. These are all good and noble pursuits, and I can endorse their decision to become an attorney. However, that is not always the answer I get.
I have had students tell me they are not sure what they want to do, but they heard that having a law degree is a good start. While that may be true, law school is quite expensive to be a place where you are wandering and finding what you want to do. Other students tell me that they want to make a lot of money, and they know that attorneys make a lot of money. I can attest that some attorneys make a lot of money, but not all attorneys do. If someone goes into nonprofit work, or public sector service, the compensation is not as high as they may expect. The high dollar money for lawyers seems to come from litigation, but that type of practice comes with a cost in time and hours worked, a trade some may be willing to make, but others, like me, want to have time for our families and other aspects of life.
When I first started my law practice, I started traveling to see people where they were, whether that be at their home, office, apartment, assisted living community, or at one of my offices. I wanted to be able to talk to people in a comfortable environment, one where they felt at ease and was convenient for them. I also chose to work with people who were not the richest of the rich, or the poorest of the poor, as I like working with people somewhere in the middle, and I think I can help them. That allows me to charge fair and reasonable prices, so that I can make a living, but I am not too expensive for most people. I charge enough to cover my expenses and not a whole lot more – just enough to support my family. By making these choices, I found myself working with people that share life experiences with me and that I like. If I can help people in similar life circumstances, then I can be a lawyer of the people, able to help the majority of people who may otherwise not find what they need.
Being Mobile Helps Me Be Among the People
We all have busy lives. Whether we are working, taking our kids to sports or music practice, serving in the community or in church, or pursuing hobbies, our time is at a premium. We don’t want to have to take the time to go somewhere inconvenient, or to travel to meet with an attorney to discuss the end of our own lives, as that is not high on our priority list.
I help solve this problem for people by going to see them where convenient. I have many clients who are in assisted living communities, so it is difficult for them to travel to see me. I started going to see them where they lived, and it worked so much better. They were happy to have me come, and I was happy to be out of my office building. I decided to extend this to all of my clients. I have met many people at their homes, or for those who don’t want me to go to their homes, I am happy to meet with them at my office. Sometimes a house may be under construction, or an older individual may not want me to come by and see their dirty house. I really don’t care about the condition of a house, but I am happy to accommodate the wishes of a client on where to meet.
Rich or Poor? It Doesn’t Really Matter (I Can Help)
I have friends who work for some of the bigger firms that handle estate planning and estate tax planning. They target clients who are worth $25 Million or more. They like to say they are fishing for whales. I determined these were not my target market early on in my career because there are a lot of firms gunning for these clients, and many of those firms have much bigger practices and resource bases than I do. I looked at those firms, and how they charge $25,000 or more for a trust. The money was well worth it to avoid paying millions in estate taxes, but most people do not have that type of money. The current (as of 2022) federal estate tax limit is $12.06 Million per person, or $24.12 Million per couple. Most people don’t have that much money and I thought the price for estate planning at a big firm was not affordable for most people, so I didn’t want to build a practice in that area.
On the other end of the spectrum are people who have very little, like a small bank account, or investment account that they want to leave to their spouse or children. In those types of cases, the phenomenon of online estate planning is helpful. Using a self help online estate plan for such simple situations – just leaving assets to a spouse, or equally to your children – and small amounts of assets may work. I cannot charge so little that I can compete with the free do it yourself online services, but I do understand how the online services can be useful for people who fit this criteria.
I focus on the area in between these two extremes, or on people who might consider themselves in the middle – not too rich, and not too poor. There are a lot of people who have saved their entire lives, and have assets in retirement accounts, a house, and some savings. They may be worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even a few million if you count up the equity in real estate and possibly life insurance. Most people in this category do not want to go to the big firms and pay the high fees. They also are not sure they want to trust an online estate plan for their situation. They worked too hard for their money to trust an online program to handle something as important as an estate plan.
Fair and Reasonable Prices Are a Big Part of What I Do
Instead, I can offer them a middle ground. I can prepare something more than a basic estate plan, even if it is as simple as possible. I will be able to ensure the estate plan works for my clients, and that it complies with the necessary laws in Colorado, and do so at an affordable price. I say that I am not the cheapest, but I am also far from the most expensive, but I do things correctly for a fair price. Sometimes I put it this way: I am not fishing for whales, but I am fishing for salmon, and I can survive on salmon. Of course, I hope my clients end up earning so much that they become whales – worth more than $25 Million – so I need to refer them to my friends who handle estate tax planning. But, for the rest of us who are not that rich, I am happy to work with you to get your estate plan created and accomplish what you want and need.
I do understand that cost is always a consideration for people when making a buying decision, and nobody wants to pay too much. For those who have $25 Million or more, so they are looking at paying 40% in estate tax of any amount over $24.12 Million in assets, the $25,000 plus price tax to save millions is worth it. For those who don’t have that much money, the price tag is way too high. I also understand that a fair price is definitely in the eye of the beholder. For someone who has $200 dollars to their name, my $500 basic will package is totally unattainable and way too high. For most people, the $500 price for a basic will package – including a will, financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and living will – is well within their price range, especially since it comes with the assurance that I will write you a comprehensive, complete, and fully legal estate plan. Trust based packages do tend to cost more, but if you have circumstances that mean a trust would be helpful and useful, then the additional cost can be worth it. I try to be conscious of cost considerations and limitations for my clients, and I do work to keep costs affordable and reasonable for my clients. I don’t want to pay too much for anything, and I know you don’t want to pay too much either.
Let’s Work Together to Get Your Estate Plan Right
I cannot say that I am just like you, but I do think we’re not all that different. I try to raise my three kids right, make a living to support them, and enjoy a night out with my wife from time to time. I know most of you are in the same, or were in a similar situation. You live the best you can, work an honest day, and just want to be able to take care of your family and enjoy life. I am one of you, one of the people, so we can work together to make your estate plan one of what the people would want. Let me help you make this happen, since I do think of myself as the people’s attorney.