Every law firm’s engagement agreement is different, but we can tell you how we -- an elder law firm based in Boston -- do most of our work. (Other ElderLawAnswers member firms may have different arrangements. To find a member firm near you, click here.)
First, we charge $500 for the initial consultation. It’s an intensive meeting to understand the clients’ situation and goals, discuss planning options, answer questions and together develop a plan for moving forward. In most cases by the end of the meeting, we can quote a fee for implementing the plan. We generally ask for half the fee when we are hired and the balance when the client returns to sign the estate planning documents. If we are hired, we apply the initial $500 fee towards the ultimate cost (in effect, waiving it).
In a smaller number of cases, it is impossible to determine the scope of the work at the outset. In those cases, we charge by the hour and request a retainer. The retainer varies depending on the situation. In a probate matter, the retainer may be just enough to get us started, since we will ultimately be paid from the estate assets. In a litigation matter, including guardianship and conservatorship, we will ask for a large retainer both because these cases can be very unpredictable and we want the clients to know what they’re getting into before we venture forth. Litigation can be very expensive and stressful.