The Ontario Wills and Estates Law Blog

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What Will It Cost — A Discussion About Fees for Legal Work

A discussion about legal fees can be awkward as many of us don’t like to discuss money. However, it is important to have an idea what a professional’s services may cost before the work begins.   In this blog, we explore our approach to this sometimes uncomfortable but essential subject.

By the end of a client’s initial meeting with us to discuss having legal work done, such as the preparation of a will and powers of attorney, we are generally in a position to provide a block-fee quote for one or more options that may have been discussed.  Depending upon the client’s circumstances, we may recommend more than one option and will provide a quote for each option.  Where a client’s estate planning needs are complex due to the assets owned or the family or business situation, it may not be possible to quote a block-fee.  In that case, hourly rates will be quoted.  If at all possible, we will provide an estimate of the time required to complete the task within a time range that we consider reasonable but not fixed.  In such circumstances, we can, if requested by the client,  work on the matter until a specific dollar value is reached and notify the client when we are at or near that pre-set amount.

For clients who ask us to obtain probate for an estate or who require assistance with property title changes due to a death or for estate planning purposes, we can often quote a block fee at the end of the initial meeting.  At that time, we also are able to provide an estimate of the additional government charges which are necessary to complete the work for our client.

Choosing what to do (or not do) is always the client’s choice. However, it is easier for a client to make a decision that is right for them after they have full information as to the options available and the consequences of each. As lawyers, our job is to ensure that our clients are aware of the options available to them and the pros and cons of each.  As a result, clients can make an informed decision which they believe best for themselves and their family.   In some cases, the client’s decision may be to take no action at all and leave things as they are.  If a client decides not to have any work done at all (which may be the best choice), we bill for the consultation time.   We do not make decisions for clients but our discussions can help them decide.

If, after the initial appointment, a client wishes to proceed with some or all of the work, we ask for a deposit of a portion of the quoted fee. If clients decide not to proceed or if they want time to think about the options before deciding, we bill for consultation time only based on the hourly rate in effect.  HST of 13% is added to fees when we bill.   In many cases, the consultation fee can be applied towards the quoted fees if the client decides to proceed and the work is completed within six months. We have found this approach to fees to be fair and acceptable to clients.

When working with any professional, it is appropriate to ask how fees are structured and what costs to expect. If clients need work done by other professionals such as accountants, financial planners, and others whose services are valued based on time and expertise, it is appropriate to expect a discussion of fees.  The is best done early in the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no surprises.  This goes a long way to building a strong foundation for a successful working relationship.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

Blog posts pre-dated December 1, 2015 were originally published under Neff Law Office Professional Corporation.

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