The firm of Bradley Vauter & Associates, P.C. is a small firm but with years of experience. We are here to help you. We are a private firm with a public spirit, and all the attorneys first met while helping in a paid or volunteer basis at a non-profit legal services organization. While much work here is carried out by Brad Vauter, the team includes others and sometimes we may even involve outside help, when and as needed.
We value your business and we treat you fairly. We’d like to think we could help you, and provide some peace of mind as you wade through the legal thickets. Let us be your guide–whether creating a plan meeting your needs, or via litigation or administrative appearances to defend your interests or make your claims.
Our Main Areas of Practice
This means we often help with estates and trusts, wills, financial and durable powers of attorney, designation of patient advocate arrangements, and Medicare and Medicaid advocacy or planning and probate administration. We can intervene and try to help if elder abuse or exploitation is suspected.
We also help those worried about long term care planning, or paying for nursing homes or other care, and special needs trusts and government benefits. If you are concerned about guardianship or need a conservator we can help, just as we can help with care issues and concerns at nursing homes and other facilities.
We also help set up and counsel non-profit organization, take care of application for tax exempt status with the IRS, and provide legal audits for non-profits and small businesses. We work with small businesses on contract and other issues, such as starting a business, buying a business, selling a business, and so on.
We support and help and advise and represent people with real estate issues, deeds, and property and landlord tenant matters, including evictions.
We also work and try to help seek out solutions for those who are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered, or those who have HIV/AIDS. Even with the law as it stands, uncertain and sometimes unhelpful, there are many things members of the LGBT community can do in a proactive way to protect themselves, and there are some laws that still apply should they face discrimination. We understand and help.
For families who have a child with disabilities, we help with special needs trusts. We also may be able to refer families to attorneys or organizations to help assure that the letter and spirit of the law surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are honored, and we might be able to provide some guidance ourselves.
We also work with organizations who need speakers or trainers. We have given hundreds of presentations and trainings over the years. Some presentations are as short as half an hour, other presentations and trainings might be a day or two long. Our presentations can be tailored to lay or professional audiences. If you need a speaker or trainer, feel free to contact us!
How The Place for Good Counsel℠ Can Help
First and foremost we can help all clients with a thoughtful consultation. In a consultation we ask you a lot of questions, to get a good grounding of your situation and concern, and you pepper us with questions. Then we discuss options or ideas for moving forward.
It seems almost too simple, to have a consultation with an attorney. But we take it seriously and so should you. Far too many people don’t get legal advice when they need it, and sometimes, sadly, they pay a big price for delay or neglect–or reliance on non-attorney advisors.
During a consultation or initial meeting, we might even do quick research on the spot, answer your questions, direct you to other outside resources, and set up a possible plan of action.
Consultations for the first hour are charged at half our normal hourly rate. Most consultations are about an hour or less. Time beyond the first hour, if applicable, is at regular rates. If you engage us for work, a portion of consultation time may be applied towards our fees. (Unlike some firms that offer “free consultations” we do not.)
The Place for Good Counsel is here so you can get trusted and helpful information and ideas you need to move forward with your legal concerns and issues. We also provide legal checkups for individuals, often at a flat rate.
When you arrange for a consultation with us, you are not obligated to hire us for anything further, and we are not obligated to represent you further, unless we both agree.
Of course, as in most law firms, we can do much more than a consultation. We can appear in court, and at administrative hearings to protect your interests and represent you. We can draft documents to help achieve your goals, and we can negotiate or mediate or arbitrate issues too. We can advise you on a course of action, counsel you, and help you develop a strategy. We do much work on an hourly basis, but we also do some work on a flat fee basis.
Why You Can Count On Us
We are square with folks. There will be times when we doubt we can help, and we will tell you so. There are other times when we can help, but we might only have a 50-50 or an 80 per cent chance of winning your case or getting a good result in your matter—and we will tell you that too. You decide whether or not to go forward. We think a legal checkup or even a consultation has value, and we sometimes offer such things, for quite distant clients, via Skype or similar arrangements.
We also bring many years of experience to bear when we address your concerns, and we try hard to look at the whole person, not just the “legalities” of the matter. Because of this broad or holistic approach, we might suggest that others pitch in or help, particularly in the elder care and elder law area and in the non-profit arena. We are quick to suggest others when we don’t have the expertise – and thus won’t be shy about referring you to public or non-profit resources, or social workers, or care managers, a long-term care ombudsman, an accountant, or so on.
Even though we are quick to suggest you make use of other professionals, if warranted, we are not unwilling to tackle tough problems either. And our experience, as outlined above, can help.
For instance, Vauter was not only the chair of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the State Bar of Michigan (2012-2013), he’s also written articles for the Michigan State Bar Journal, the Michigan Family Law Journal (addressing same sex marriage issues), co-authors a chapter on elder abuse and exploitation in a publication for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE); given hundreds of presentations to professionals and lay audiences; drafted legislation; and counseled thousands of clients.
Vauter has been a member of NAELA (the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys), a member of the State Bar of Michigan and several sections of the bar, and he is admitted to the Eastern and Western (Federal) District Courts of Michigan. Vauter is certified as a mediator under the Michigan Court Rules (MCR 2.411) and offers mediation services, is a Notary Public and has a Certificate of Completion in Elderly Crime and Abuse: Prevention and Prosecution-a program jointly sponsored by the MSU School of Criminal justice and the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging.
Attorney Jadranko Tomic-Bobas, graduated cum laude from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2010, was an intern at the Sixty Plus, Inc. Elder Law Clinic while in law school, and now works with the firm on a art-time basis. Mr. Tomic-Bobas has garnered a lot of experience as a Staff Attorney at Lakeshore Legal Aid, the Counsel & Advocacy Law Line, Elder Law of Michigan and serves as a Hearing Referee with the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Jadranko has represented landlords in dozens and dozens of eviction and other property management related legal matters, and he has a deep understanding of Michigan property tax law, having heard and decided hundreds of property tax cases as a referee.
He now serves as the Legal Director for the Hotline at Elder Law of Michigan, when not working with us. His B.A. is from the MSU Eli Broad College of Business. He speaks Croatian and German in addition to English and has lived in Croatia and Germany too. He serves on the board of directors of Hospice of Lansing and in his very limited spare time, you might find him playing soccer or traveling with his wife.
Of Counsel or Co-Counsel help. At times, our firm will make use of “of Counsel” arrangements with other attorneys. A very simple way of looking at it is that, sometimes we pick their brains, or make some use of their services (research or drafting for instance) if we are jammed or facing a unique problem. We always set out those arrangements separately if they are going to be used.
Pricing at The Place For Good Counsel℠
While not free, we think our rates are fair, considering our staffing and experience. Mr. Vauter charges $250.00 per hour. Other attorneys charge $220.00 on most matters. Paralegal and support staff time, when applicable, is billed at $ 80.00 per hour. And if a law clerk can be helpful on a matter, under our supervision, sometimes their work is billed at $30.00 per hour. Fees are paid at the same time services are rendered or shortly thereafter. Depending on the matter and amounts involved, a retainer might be involved. Some matters are handled on a flat fee or a hybrid flat fee basis instead of hourly.
For instance, the three key items for basic solid estate planning, as well as an important consultation and analysis of your situation–to make sure the documents really meet your needs and desires, and give you the peace of mind you deserve–is typically available for a flat fee of $730.00 per person. Those 3 documents are a will, a durable power of attorney, and a designation of patient advocate (sometimes known as a medical power of attorney). If we are making these documents for a couple, at the same time, and can take advantage of combined meetings, the “second” set of documents will realize a savings of $150.00. (This means that most couples will pay $1310.00, rather than $1460.00, to complete all their normal estate plans and documents.)
If the assets of the estate involved turn out to be quite significant, or if the assets held by the individual are complicated in nature or several meetings or drafts are required to produce the documents tailored just for you, additional costs might be incurred, but that is not very common. It is also possible to have us prepare just one of the three items too, if that is your desire, and as a flat fee then a will is $380; a durable power of attorney document is $260; a Michigan patient advocate (medical power of attorney) is $125, so the package price is a little bit less expensive than the individual price.
Trusts are a different or additional matter. Many people want a trust given the advantages a trust might have over having just a will. If you want a trust too, and one seems warranted (whether to avoid probate, avoid inventory fees, better manage your affairs if you are seriously disabled before death, etc.) we typically develop those for your particular circumstances and the charges range from $1200 to $2400 per trust. (Sometimes a family might even have two trusts or arrangements not only to avoid probate but to qualify for Medicaid, and so on.) Part of the costs of the trust, eliminate or reduce costs that would be incurred if an estate needed to be probated later. This means that “funding” the trust is critical, and we can help with that.
Medicaid and long term care planning also lends itself to flat fee planning, but as that work can sometimes be broken out into pieces, we’d need to consult first to figure out what services would really be needed. The price range for our long term care consulting/Medicaid work, typically falls in the range of $3,200.00 to $8,500.00 depending on the complexity.
If your matter requires help from our “of counsel” attorney, or an attorney outside the firm, those fees are set separately.
Likewise, in landlord/tenant eviction matters, we offer flat (legal) fee arrangements up to and including the first court appearance, and those fees vary a bit by the court involved. Clients are responsible for the court costs, process service costs, separate from our legal fee. These flat fees for eviction work typically run about $320.00 in the Lansing, East Lansing and Charlotte District Courts, $360.00 in Mason, and $375.00 in St. Johns and Portland.
When and if litigation is involved, the nature and type of the litigation, and the number of parties involved, plays a role in the costs involved. Many other factors influence the cost of litigation too including: the judge drawn, the novelty of the issue, the proofs or witnesses needed, the willingness of the parties to negotiate before trial and/or to seek mediation, etc.. It is very easy to spend $3,500.00 on costs and attorney fees in the simplest of cases, and spending $7,500 to $10,000 or $15,000 or even more is also very possible. This means litigation should be reserved for larger ticket matters, with a fair chance of winning and collecting, should you win, if the plaintiff. And if you are a defendant in litigation someone else starts, you should evaluate with your attorney your exposure and also discern if mediation or settlement has any merit before trial. Although there are some exceptions here and there, for the most part in America, and in most matters, the parties, whether plaintiff or defendant incur their own attorney fees (win/lose/draw or compromise). This also means that for smaller amounts in Michigan, people on their own, and without an attorney, consider or use the Michigan small claims court, which has a jurisdiction up to $7500.00 (if you are going to sue a neighbor for $5,000.00 for instance, it might be sensible to use the small claims route).
Deeds. Preparing valid deeds, in the right circumstances, can be critical to your legal well-being or the well-being of others. We most often charge $185.00 for preparing a deed after we’ve discussed with you the reason or intent behind the deeding. When we do so, we work off valid deeds from the past and trust that someone has a good legal description on hand that passes muster. If we need to research the deed or create one from the get go or after consulting a surveyor or title company, the cost might go up. Beyond our legal fees, most deeds and supporting documents (a death certificate, for instance) are recorded at the register of deeds office and those fees tend to be in the 30 to 35 dollar range right now. Be aware too, if property is transferred, or even” a name added” to real estate, you likely will also need to complete a property transfer affidavit and perhaps a personal residence tax exemption status form to the appropriate government office.
Training and speaking arrangements are established on a case-by-case basis. Mediation services are also arranged on a case-by-case basis. We pride ourselves on being passionate and caring, and it shows in our work as well as relationships with clients, as you will see from the various testimonials.
It is possible to pay us via credit card* too, should you prefer. (*Regular fees and costs and retainers may be paid via credit card, if desired–however if we need to make a deposit in our client trust account for work related to your matter, those payments must be made by cash or money order or check so that we maintain our ethical obligation in regards to full accounting for any such funds.)
-----The prices noted above are for 2017, and are subject to change. Also, while many times we readily proceed under a flat fee structure, there are times where we may need to deviate from this, with your acknowledgement. And there are many times where we simply must bill for our time and effort and expertise, and flat fees are not possible, or a flat fee needs to be supplemented. We give the price and value ideas above so you have decent guidance on costs.-----