FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Typically not, if you have completed and returned the Questionnaire which can be downloaded from our Instructions for Initial Consultation. However, there may be a flat fee, disclosed in advance, to explain existing documents or review them for effectiveness in North Carolina.

Typically, one hour, maximum.

The meeting will be more meaningful, with less distraction to all of us, if children are not present at the initial conference. Pictures, however, are encouraged!

To get to know each other better – who you are, what you need, who we are, what we offer – so each of us can decide whether we should move forward to work together on planning your life care and legacy. See our Instructions for Initial Consultation for more information.

To determine exactly what’s right for you, we have a process. The process is analogous to rounding the bases in a baseball diamond, beginning from home plate. Together, we move only one base at a time, each in sequence. And we don’t move from one base to the next without your knowing what to expect, including what fees will be involved to move to the next base…before you decide to go there. To see what we mean, you can take a look at our Baseball Diamond Analogy illustration.

Fees will be openly discussed at the initial conference. People and circumstances are as different as snowflakes when it comes to estate planning, so there is no “one size fits all” way to set attorney fees. In fact, even for what a client might consider to be a “simple” matter, there are at least seven factors that the North Carolina State Bar considers when reviewing an attorney’s fee. Without knowing your goals, background, net worth, tax status and circumstances of your family and loved ones, it is impossible to pre-determine or even closely estimate what your estate planning and document fees might be. Please know, however, that only if we both share the same sense of values for the anticipated scope of work should we consider working together. We can then agree on a fee arrangement that will have no surprises or disappointments to either of us. We feel that’s the only fair way to do business.

While it is customary to describe an estate plan as a list of documents, in choosing an attorney you are not just “buying paper.” (For that matter, the paper and binders for our most complex documents would not cost over $100.00.) What you are choosing is the counselor who will design a plan that you must live with after your incapacity and your beneficiaries must live with after you are gone. You are choosing the advisor upon whom your loved ones will depend most likely at their most difficult times. You are creating a relationship that you should want to last for life. With Mitchiner & Small, you get all of that.

Yes. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

We understand how difficult this time can be. Lawyers ask you to sign legal documents, CPAs ask for information to complete tax returns, and financial advisors want to reposition the investment portfolio. These are the people who you least want to deal with while grieving. But there are time deadlines, and what these professionals are asking you to do will likely have a real economic effect on you and the other beneficiaries. That’s where our process comes in. We can help you stay on top of your varied responsibilities.

Assuming that your loved one’s assets were correctly titled in the trust, you may be able to avoid, or least minimize, probate. But if you are the trustee, you shouldn’t distribute the assets before taking care of all of your legal responsibilities, such as addressing creditor claims, paying taxes, and ensuring that the distributions are correctly calculated, timed, and managed. We can help you meet all of your legal responsibilities.

There may be a little or there may be plenty, depending on each individual case. Once you assume the role of Executor or trustee, you assume personal liability to fulfill all requirements imposed on you by the law. This includes making sure all of the assets are accounted for, tax cost basis is adjusted, properties are sold or distributed, correct IRA RMDs are established, and a host of other issues. If, for example, you make full distribution to the beneficiaries, closing out the administration before completing these tasks, and a legal obligation or unforeseen tax liability arises, you are personally responsible to pay for that obligation out of your own pocket if the beneficiaries won’t refund their proportionate share of the inheritance to pay for the obligation. We walk you through this process to minimize the chance that these problems arise.

The estate or trust will typically pay the legal fees and costs associated with administration. These fees and costs are potentially tax deductible to the estate or trust.

We have helped many Executors and Administrators who are frustrated and overwhelmed by trying to take on the administration process without legal representation, particularly when it comes to dealing with the Court. Depending on the steps that have (or have not) been taken prior to our involvement, significant work may be required to get the administration back on track. But it is far better to ask for help when you need it than to attempt to carry on in the midst of uncertainty and frustration.