What sort of costs are we looking at? How much do you charge?

Seeing a lawyer usually costs money but we are sharing typical costs below, on both an hourly basis and in some of our “flat fee” areas. (Naturally we think getting a lawyer, or any professional, involved early in a process makes more sense than only inviting us to be a mop up squad.  But that doesn’t always happen, nor is it always in our control.  Still, preventive lawyering, if you can go that route, is cheaper usually than “clean up on aisle 5” legal work.)

In the first half of 2019 our attorney and staff fees are as follows:

Senior Attorney/Owner:                     $260.00 per hour

Senior Associate Attorney:                 $240.00 per hour

Associate Attorney:                               $220.00 per hour

Paralegal:                                                 $90.00  per hour

Law Clerk:                                                 $32.00 per hour

Much of our work is done on an hourly basis, so court time, non court time, studying the law or court rules, answering and reading emails, consulting with you on the phone, drafting and redrafting documents–most all of that sort of work gets billed.  So, it all depends.  In addition, at times, there are out-of-pocket costs involved in the law, particularly when courts are involved (think filing fees, or fees for transcripts, etc.).


There are also areas of the law though where we do operate with “flat fees” in mind.  Landlord Tenant eviction cases.  Most all estate planning. Some Medicaid/Long Term Care planning.  Creating deeds.


As a rough guideline (and not a guarantee), our flat fees for estate planning for the first half of 2019, can be found here:

Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney Single Couple
Individualized Will/Pour Over Will/s $385    $ 695      
Financial Power of Attorney/s $265    $ 480      
Medical Power of Attorney/s $130    $ 235      
Individualized Estate Plan Package Price $740   $1,320    ☐
Joint/Single Revocable Grantor Trust   $1,250-$1,650 * $                                 
Special Needs Trust *

*A typical trust plan will include one trust, but also require one or two wills to ensure full funding of the trust.

$                                 

As you may note, the individualized estate plan package price is a bit lower than adding up the individual items–this is because some some savings are possible doing everything at the same time–both our initial meeting and the document drafting and even the signing of the forms are a bit shorter/easier, when done together.  Also, keep in mind that if you create a trust, which does add to the cost of estate planning, you generally always save at the back end–in other words, well drafted and funded trusts often allow you to avoid probate and many of the costs involved in probate after your death, and may even help avoid the need for a conservatorship appointment through the probate court while you are living but unable to attend to your financial affairs properly.  (A will doesn’t typically avoid the probate process, rather it informs the probate process so your individual wishes are carried out, and not some default plan created by law.)

What about preparing and recording various real estate deeds or documents in Michigan with the Register of Deeds? Again, usually done as a flat fee, and usually as noted below:

Deeds Number Price  
Warranty Deed/Lady Bird Deed             $220 ($185 + $35 filing fee)   ☐
Quit Claim Deed/Other             $215 ($185 + $30 filing fee)   ☐
Death Certificate/Power of Attorney             $30 filing fee each                    ☐
Deeds Subtotal: $                     

Landlord Tenant Residential Eviction Work?  Again, see below for an idea, with assumption landlord has already given/served a proper termination of tenancy notice, and also assuming 2 hours in court maximum to have a judgment entered.

Location of Court Price Per Case No. of Cases
Lansing/East Lansing/Charlotte $325                   
Mason $365                   
St. Johns/Portland $385                   
Initial Costs and Fees Deposit: $100                   

Medicaid Planning?  And then, in perhaps one of the trickiest areas of elder law practice, application and planning and analysis and implementation of plans to qualify for Medicaid and other long term care benefits, it depends greatly on the amounts involved, the urgency, the need to mine documents of the past, and so on.  Here we don’t have flat fees, per se, but typical ranges from $650.00 for helping complete or review self generated applications (not common but it happens) up to $3800 for the mid-range work-up and planning and strategies, even some estate planning related documents, and then, when court or other actions are required or it involves what some call emergency or crisis Medicaid planning, in addition to the other efforts mentioned, the fee could be as high as $8650.00.  That is about the average cost for just one month’s stay in a nursing home in Michigan.  Sophisticated Medicaid planning, elder law planning, is designed with the goal of reducing the amounts paid by the client many times over, so the community spouse, the one not needing nursing home care–is not driven to the poor house.


What about litigation? 

Litigation often has a life of it’s own, and so predictions are almost foolish–let’s just say, in a real honest to goodness big fight in court, involving various stages and trips to court, behind the scenes work and so on, anywhere from $4,000 to $65,000 is not unheard of. Those figures, at least at the higher end, make folks yell “yikes” and we understand, and thus try to avoid litigation–or if we undertake litigation, do it in the most effective and aggressive way possible to meet client goals.

But frankly, most of us don’t need to litigate things, or we need only start litigation then work out settlements or deals.


What sort of out-of-pocket expenses might there be regarding administering an estate in Michigan?

These are approximate fees or costs only to give you a ball park idea—these are items that don’t go to the law firm, unless they go to the firm’s trust account, simply to be used to pay others, like the probate court, newspaper, etc.  (This information is a bit simplified—your mileage may vary, as they say.)

Filing Fee at probate court:  $30 to $186 depending on type and size of estate, or non-estate request.

Copy of letters of authority for the personal representative:  $13 to 40 or so, depending how many needed

Guardian ad litem, if required:  $150 to $450.

Legal notice to creditors in newspaper: $65 to $100

Inventory fees collected by the Michigan county probate court depend on size of estate (an estate consists of things that are in the deceased’s name alone at time of death).  These fees usually come off the top of the estate before folks get their share of the estate.   Examples:

$25,000 estate                 inventory fee $144.00      $200,000    “                        “                     $488.00

$75,000     “                          “                      $300.00       $1,000,000 “                      “                     $1,175.00

What about legal fees, the fees we pay a lawyer to help probate the estate of the dead person, and keep the personal representative of the estate on track?  The fees vary of course, depending on the complexity, how much we do, how much the family and personal representative can do with our guidance, or on their own, and so on.  Will there be squabbles, or unusual circumstances that require extra court involvement or hearings?  Will some assets of the estate turn out to create extra problems?  While never able to say precisely, a fair range of our fees for 80 % or more of our estate work so far has been from $1,6500.00 to $7,500. We usually get a $1,300 non-refundable retainer to start work on an estate ($300 of which we set aside for basic expected out of pocket costs like court fees and legal ad) UNLESS we are sure we can work things through one of the non-estate routes in Michigan, where we typically ask for $500.00 to get started.


Recap:

So how much will things cost?  How much does it cost to use our services and get our professional help?  The typical answer?  “It all depends.” And it depends on many factors including the complexity of the matter, how many others might be stirring the pot, how much background work and research we need to undertake, how organized you are (or, in an estate matter, how organized the deceased was, while alive) and so on and so forth.  Naturally there is a distinction between creating documents and plans (for an estate or business) and litigation.

Costs also depends on how we split up chores between the law office and the client.  For instance, we can draft a pretty decent trust for you…and let you get to the banks and financial institutions to make sure your trust is properly “funded”–that is, retitling your investment accounts and bank accounts and so on, into the trust.  or you can pay our staff to do so (usually with the help of our paralegal) if it seems like too much of a headache.  But look over the above, and you will find us pretty transparent in terms of the costs.

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