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“Free Elder Law Consultation” – or — “I Just Need a Will”: Two Misguided Ideas

5 Reasons Why a Comprehensive Paid Consultation with an Estate Planning/Elder Law Attorney is a Valuable Investment

If you’re concerned about how your “golden years” will play out, or what will happen once you pass away, you would be well-advised to become informed about the risks that you face and how best to protect yourself and your family.  Doing nothing is itself a decision, one that often leads to unanticipated and undesirable consequences.  And if you do decide to take action, a “free consultation” is not likely to produce any better results.

Many people don’t know, and don’t want to think about, the full scope of financial and long-term care risks that occur as they grow older.  For example, you might insist that you only need a Will.   A few years later, you find that you’re spending money on long-term care like it’s coming out of a fire hose, and you discover that you could have saved and protected your money if had you created a Trust instead of a Will.  That would be a horrible discovery, and it might be too late to change your plan effectively.

Turning back the clock, if you had not insisted that “I just need a Will,” you might have engaged an experienced Elder Law and Estate Planning attorney to conduct a thorough analysis of your situation and provide you with possible options and best solutions.  That’s what a comprehensive paid consultation is all about.

Estate planning and long-term care planning can and usually should be integrated.  An in-depth consultation with an Elder Care attorney who does both can lead you to a strategy that will protect your life’s savings while you are alive, and, upon your death, will ensure the efficient and private distribution of your assets according to your wishes.

You don’t want to rely on a “free consultation” when making such consequential decisions.  Here’s why:

  1. Commitment and focus – on both sides

    When attorneys offer prospective clients a “free consultation,” neither has a sufficient commitment or investment in the process or the outcome.

    Time is valuable. Attorneys who have businesses can’t afford to spend hours talking with you or thinking about your issues, without charging a fee.  The saying “you get what you pay for” is applicable here.  Usually the free consultation ends with, “Yes, we can help you.”  You paid zero, and you got zero useful advice.

    As a prospective client, you get to “kick the tires,” but any advice you might actually receive feels as though it has less value, because it was free.  You have a few questions, but you haven’t expended much effort to prepare for the meeting.  The end result is incomplete advice at best, and an unsatisfying experience.

    At our firm, we speak at length with people who call or email to inquire about our services.  Our Client Information Specialist, or a Lamson & Cutner attorney, can determine whether an in-depth consultation is appropriate in your circumstances, while you are still on the phone.  If such a meeting is indicated, you can arrange it then.  We will tell you what to bring to the meeting so that we can provide you with appropriate advice.

    You’re already ahead of the game by the end of the initial phone call.  You have confidence that the consultation will give you valuable information, you learn something about the attorney you will be consulting with, and you find out what information you need to bring to make the meeting as productive as possible.

  2. Education – on both sides

    At a good consultation, your attorney will first learn about your particular situation – your health, your finances, your family, your concerns, and your goals.   All of these factors and more are vital in developing a plan that fits your unique circumstances.

    As the consultation progresses, the attorney will explain and discuss the laws and rules that apply to your situation, the available options and solutions, and what strategies might work best for you.  The more the attorney knows about you, the better and more accurate the advice you will receive.  The more you know about the proposed course of action, the more confidence you will have that you are making the best decisions every step of the way.

  3. Thoroughness

    You are far more likely to go to the trouble of gathering the information the attorney needs to assess your situation fully, if you are spending money on the meeting.  Before a consultation with a Lamson & Cutner attorney, you will receive a checklist of documents to send in advance to the firm or bring to the consultation.  It will take some time and effort on your side to gather the documents and information requested.  But it will be worth the effort.  With a complete picture of your situation, the attorney will be able to provide better and more precise advice to you.

    For example, you may not believe that a time share in Florida, or your whole life insurance policy, or your 1/8 share in family property in a foreign country, are important parts of your financial picture.  However, for long-term care planning, all of them count and can affect the result.

    For the attorney, knowing that the client is invested in the process is extremely important.   Good advice is always based on knowledge of the relevant facts.

  4. Appropriate Recommendations

    At the completion of our firm’s consultation, we propose a plan – which is our recommendations for the steps we feel would best serve your purposes.  In addition, and very importantly, we also tell you how much it will cost to implement that plan.  At our firm, the right plan is always a cost-effective plan.  Yes, a law firm is a business, and we need to make money too.  However, the long-term success of our firm is and always will be based on producing excellent results for clients, at a fair price.

    Most of the time our firm charges a flat fee for our services.  Total fees vary, depending on the number of legal documents you need and their complexity.

    By taking the time to review and analyze your circumstances, and discussing your objectives, an Elder Law and Estate Planning attorney can be confident in recommending steps that will:

    • Protect your assets during your lifetime,
    • Provide you with long-term care if needed, and
    • Efficiently distribute your assets according to your wishes upon your death.

    The results of good Elder Law planning are remarkable. You ensure that you can get the health care you need.  Your life’s savings, which might have been wiped out paying for health care, are protected so that they last as long as possible.  You safeguard not only your own financial security, but also that of your spouse if you are married, and others such as a disabled child.  In addition, you’re able to leave an inheritance for your children or other heirs once you pass away.

  5. Peace of Mind

    When you commit money and effort to the process of your Elder Law and Estate Planning consultation, the end result can bring you tremendous peace of mind.  It is gratifying and reassuring to know that you gathered your documents and information, explained your situation in detail, discussed your goals and wishes with your attorney, learned about the actions you could take, and chose the right plan for you.  Best of all, an in-depth consultation gives you the best opportunity to find the path forward that will protect you, your family and your assets in the most cost-effective way possible. The attorneys at Lamson & Cutner are focused on making our consultations as productive and as helpful as possible.  Our consultations include the following:

    1. A review of your family situation
    2. A review of your financial situation
    3. Discussion of your health care and long-term care needs
    4. Discussion of your goals and objectives regarding health care
    5. Discussion of goals and objectives regarding your estate
    6. Information about legal options that would be appropriate for you to consider
    7. Information about government benefit programs, such as Medicaid
    8. A detailed, personalized plan and fee agreement, outlining proposed steps and how much the plan would cost

Call or email us today to begin the process of planning for your future.  You’ll be glad you did!

NYC Office:  (212) 447-8690; Harrison, NY Office: (914) 732-3636

info@lamson.cutner.com

Note:  While our offices are in New York, we also are able to advise residents of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida.

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