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Garry Cass, ext.207
Assistant: Josie Dobosz, ext. 277

Lawyers and Accountants are too expensive

If the point of estate planning is to save your assets, to some people, it is counter-productive to hire a professional team to help. Lawyers and accountants are simply too expensive!

I often give presentations at seminars on estate planning. Do you know what people come to hear? The horror stories. Not the “things went according to plan” stories. Nope, the horror stories. And the horror stories are what I want you to you avoid.

Competent professional help is a key ingredient in creating a “things went according to plan” story. However, I admit that when you pay a professional for legal fees, you usually can’t see tangible results.

For example, when you buy a house, your real estate agent finds possible homes for you to buy, arranges the showings and discusses the merits of the house. In the end, you buy a house that you can see, touch, work on (or not) and enjoy. There is, what I call “perceived value”.

But what was the role of the lawyer besides making you sign some papers so you could get the keys?

If your lawyer did a good job, when you buy or sell property, everything goes as planned. You only know that your professional did a good job because there were no problems. Likewise, when you hire an accountant to prepare financial statements, you can only judge the quality of their work by whether or not claims are disallowed or your return is reassessed. Hopefully, your team’s level of professional competence is such that you never see the efforts they made to create predictable, successful results.

In order to give you predictability, professional advisors have to get to know you and what you want to achieve. In my practice, I find that the discussion before we begin work, is almost the most important step in the process. Once specific targets have been identified, reaching them is no longer a matter of luck — its a predictable result based on our mutual understanding and my expertise.

The time your professional spends with you in the preliminary stages is time that really pays for itself in the end. How much or how little time you spend with a competent advisor really depends on you and your ability to make decisions. However, some professionals quote lower legal fees because they spend very little time helping their clients reach appropriate decisions. Their actions and advice may not prevent foreseeable, serious problems. Your estate planning should not be done on a “loss leader” basis where the lawyer does what you ask knowing you will need to come back later to make better choices.

Find out exactly what you are getting for the fee quoted and then decide whether the end product will be made to suit you or whether you will be put into a pre-made suit before proceeding.

So what is are fair legal fees? A fair fee is one that allows your professional team to do their job well. Is it expensive? Compared to fixing the horror show, usually not.  But in any event, only you can decide what is a fair price for peace of mind.

© Garry Cass - 2010 - 2015
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