I charge a fixed fee for the estate plan which will vary somewhat depending on whether you are married or single, the type of trust you want and the complexity of the distribution clauses. I give a free consultation to determine your goals and wishes and by the end of the consultation can usually tell you what the fee will be. I ask for ½ of the fee prior to my preparing the drafts and the balance is due at our final meeting when we sign everything.
Usually I just need to have a general idea of your assets and a ballpark estimate of their value. If you decide you wish to proceed I will give you my questionnaire to fill out which requests information about your family as well as more detailed asset information. That’s it. Everything else I need to know in order to prepare your documents, I will learn from our discussions.
Occasionally I can get all the information I need to prepare the plan at our first meeting. Usually however, because I’ve asked a lot of questions and given you a lot of ideas to consider, most clients will schedule a second meeting. At the end of the second meeting, I am ready to prepare the drafts of the living trust, etc. I send the drafts out for your review within two weeks. After you’ve taken as much time as you need to review the drafts, we can meet again to review them, discuss your questions or concerns, and make any necessary changes. Sometimes we can do this second meeting over the phone – It’s completely up to you. The beauty of having a fixed fee is that you can use as much of my as you need to make certain you understand everything and that the documents set forth your wishes. Once you approve the drafts, we meet one last time to sign everything and you’re done!
At a minimum, you will probably want a Living Trust, Pour-Over Will (Last Will and Testament), Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, Spousal Agreement, General Assignment of Assets, and a deed transferring your home into the trust. The fee I quote you at our initial consultation does not include subsequent changes requested after your plan is finished and all the documents are signed. For example, if you decide later on to change your successor trustee and need an amendment to the trust, this is not included. Depending on the changes needed, I will either charge my hourly rate or quote you a fixed fee at that time.
The fee will depend of whether I am preparing the agreement or if I am reviewing the agreement that another attorney has prepared. Either way I generally charge a fixed fee which I can usually quote during our initial consultation.
The length of the process typically depends on how quickly the couple can agree. Some couples come to an agreement easily and quickly while others need more time. I usually encourage couples to discuss the terms of the agreement as much as possible prior to my drafting it so there are no surprises and then prolonged negotiations to get to an agreement. That said, some couples do better in the process to let the attorneys do the negotiations based on the parameters given to us by our clients.
No. In order to make sure the agreement remains fully enforceable in the event of a divorce, it is important under California law to make sure that each party has their own attorney.
The drafting of the agreement should be as far in advance of the wedding as possible for a couple of reasons. One, the primary way that prenups are challenged is based on undue influence, duress and was the agreement entered into voluntarily. The closer to the wedding date that the agreement is signed, the more susceptible it is to being challenged… The worst case scenario being the bride hands the groom a copy of the agreement as they are walking down the isle on their wedding day with an “Oh by the way honey, here’s a prenup I drafted for you to sign… And here’s a pen!”) The longer a party has to consider the terms of the agreement, the more deference the court will give to it. The second reason to start the process early is to just get it over with so you can move on with the joy that your wedding should be! You have enough other things to worry about in the planning without a prenup looming over your heads…
Yes! My first step in preparing a prenup is to first meet with my client and determine if they are able to achieve their objectives without the necessity of a written agreement. Often times this is possible. It just depends on what they are trying to achieve and the nature of their assets/income. I advise them regarding the nature of California law and how it applies to them to see if they can achieve their goals by how they deal with their assets after the wedding day.