Ford + Bergner LLP recognizes that many clients' greatest fear in hiring a lawyer is the unknown question of how lawyers charge for their services and how much can they expect to pay for those services. In an effort to alleviate some of those concerns, we are providing the following information regarding the manner in which we determine fees on each case. While fees for each case vary depending on the specific case, the following should provide you with some basis for understanding the manner in which we charge clients depending on the type of case we are handling for them.
Estate Planning Clients: When assisting clients with their estate planning needs (i.e. drafting Wills, Trusts, powers of attorney, and the like), we charge our clients a flat fee for those services. After we have had a chance to visit with you about your specific needs, we are happy to quote our exact fee for you prior to beginning any work so that you have an accurate idea of how much you will be charged. As a general rule, we do not require any payment up front for estate planning work, but we will appreciate your payment at the time that we conclude those services.
Probate and Guardianship Cases: For our probate and guardianship cases, we charge our services on an hourly basis. In these instances, you will be charged only for those services that we actually perform for you, and those charges are detailed on a monthly statement for you so that you fully understand the work and services we have performed. Additionally, we charge our probate and guardianship clients for our out-of-pocket expenses that we incur on your behalf for items such as court costs, filing fees, and the like.
Generally, we require our probate and guardianship clients to deposit a retainer with us. A retainer is essentially an up-front deposit to be applied to the fees as they are incurred, and the amount of that retainer will vary depending on the complexity of the specific case. Once your retainer has been expended, we then appreciate prompt payment of our fees. If any portion of your retainer is unused, it will be refunded to you at the conclusion of the case.
Fees in Appellate cases: The appeal of a probate, guardianship, or trust case is always an extremely time-consuming process, requiring that the appellate lawyers review the transcripts from the original proceedings, obtain documents from the original judge of the case, and draft the necessary briefs and documents to initiate the appeal.
Because of the extent of work that is necessarily involved in each such case, Ford + Bergner believes that it is important for someone considering this effort to understand the extent of the expense involved in pursuing such a case. Prior to beginning work on any appellate case, Ford + Bergner will routinely require a retainer deposit of $7,500 to $15,000 or more depending on the facts of the case. Although our time is billed on an hourly basis, the initial retainer deposit is required for us to begin work on the appeal. Payment for additional time billed will be expected as the work is performed.
In the instances where a client is merely looking for a consultation prior to making a decision whether or not to appeal a case, Ford + Bergner charges its normal hourly rates for the consultation and the work involved in reviewing documents prior to rendering an opinion about the pursuit of the appeal. A smaller retainer of $2,500 to $5,000 will be required, depending on the facts and circumstances of the work involved.
Special note: In most probate and guardianship cases, the attorneys' fees and expenses are reimbursable to the client out of the funds of the estate. Although you may be asked to pay some of these fees prior to completion of the probate or guardianship proceeding, you should then be able to receive reimbursement out of the estate for most or all of those fees and expenses you have paid.
Method of Payment: Ford + Bergner LLP has recently responded to the requests of many of its clients to offer alternative payment methods. While law firms have historically required large cash retainers up front to pay for legal services, we recognize that many clients may not have the cash resources to make such up-front payments. As a result, we are pleased to be able to offer our clients the option to pay for their legal services through the use of either a Mastercard or Visa. Clients have responded that the ability to pay for our services through the use of a credit card has allowed some clients to utilize our services who would not otherwise be able to do so, and it has given other clients the added benefit of being able to accrue airline miles or credit card points when they pay for their legal services. Whatever the variety of reasons, we are pleased to offer this option.