estate planning

How We Run Our California Estate Planning Law Firm

We are committed to California, and estate planning and trust administration are all we do.

Before I tell you about the unique way we run our estate planning law firm, let me first say that we are a California estate planning law firm, and we are still located in California, and we are committed to California.

Committed to California

Many have left California to settle where the grass looks greener. But we remain, as part of the remnant, feet firmly planted (no big earthquakes lately), with fortitude, ambling along, despite the anarchy-curious, and quiet quitting leadership of our beloved Golden State.

It’s still California, after all, and until the long-predicted end-of-life-as-we-know-it, natural or human-made catastrophe actually occurs, it still has the best climate, geography, and people. So we carry on.

With over 25 years as a California estate planning law firm, we have developed a simple and efficient way of doing estate planning and trust administration that our California clients like.

Our clients enjoy working with us for several reasons.

1. We Try Not to Be Obnoxious Attorneys

First and foremost, we try not to be obnoxious attorneys. This alone puts us at the top of the heap. We are competing against lawyers, after all. Listening, teaching, and being kind go a long way. Showing respect, promptly returning calls and emails, and doing what we say we will do isn’t magic, but yet, it is. 

2. We Hire Good Attorneys You Will Enjoy Working With

Second, we hire good attorneys. We hire people who are smart, who are good communicators, and who have high emotional intelligence. They are good with people and care about doing a good job. As a result, clients like working with our attorneys.

3. You Will Work Directly With Our Attorneys, Not Staff

Third, we have a ridiculous staff-to-attorney ratio. We currently have six attorneys and one staff - our office manager. Many law firms have an inverted ratio - six staff to every attorney. We’ve designed the firm this way to give our attorneys agency over their work and over their relationship with their clients. Our attorneys don’t hide behind layers of staff. Our attorneys work directly with our clients. When our clients have questions, they can email or call their attorney directly. This reduces our response time to hours, not days or weeks - clients like that.

4. We Only Do Estate Planning and Trust Administration

Fourth, we have a narrow area of practice that everyone needs. Every adult needs some level of estate planning, whether a durable power of attorney, health care directive, HIPAA, a will, or a revocable living trust. Since there is no shortage of people who need our services, we can focus on what most people need and, consequently, we have developed a very efficient system for producing a high-quality customized product, for a reasonable price, completed in a short period of time.

By definition, estate planning clients care about their family and loved ones. Otherwise, why do an estate plan? While death rates hover around 100%, not everyone cares about the aftermath. But most do, and most want the best for their family. As a result, people who do estate planning tend to be conscientious and caring people - they want to protect their family, so we get to work with nice people.

We turn away a fair amount of clients whose needs don’t fit what we do. We do estate planning for estates from $50k to $10M, and we do trust administrations. We don’t take on really wealthy clients; we don’t do taxes, business, real estate, or family law/divorce matters, and we don’t do litigation. And we don’t take on all estate planning cases. We filter out situations when we sense the estate plan the client wants will lead to lawsuits down the road.

We realize we can’t be all things to all people. We have decided that our lane is estate planning and trust administration. That’s it, and we stay in that lane.

The tendency for many attorneys is to take on whatever case can make money. This could lead to mistakes and bad results. As a young attorney back in the day, I worked for a tall building litigation firm in San Francisco. One of the partners brought on a new client who needed help with a RICO (racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization act) case with a promise of lucrative attorney fees. No one in the firm had ever handled a RICO case or even knew what RICO was. Of course, the case did not end well. Halfway through the representation, the client fired the partner and sought new counsel from a firm experienced in RICO cases.

Some estate planning firms also own a financial advisory firm and sell real estate. We don't. We only do estate planning and trust administration.

Because we only do estate planning and trust administration, we can do it very well. No making things up as we go. Repetition breeds competence.

When our clients need help with things that are not estate planning or trust administration - like a prenup, a real estate matter, or a business matter, we try to refer them to attorneys who routinely do that type of work. We are busy enough with what we do, and by saying no to what we don’t do, we can focus on being very capable in the work we do.

5. Transparent Fixed Fees - No Surprises

Fifth, we are transparent in our fees. We charge fixed fees. With fixed fees, our clients know the cost before hiring us. Unlike billable-hour law firms, there is certainty. In addition, we never charge our clients to ask us questions because we don’t bill by the hour. We want our clients to understand their estate plan, so we invite them to contact us if they have questions, for free.

This removes the inherent conflict of billable hours: the client is afraid to call the attorney for fear of the cost, while the attorney works slowly and ponderously to jack up the bill. Instead, our attorneys and our clients are on the same team. No cross-purposes. The attorney and client objectives are aligned to do a great job, in an efficient and responsive manner.

6. No Ad Gimmicks - We Rely On Client Referrals

Sixth, most of our new clients come to us by referrals from people we have worked with - clients, financial advisors, and accountants. We don’t pay agencies or Google to produce ads to lure or excite people to work with us. We rely on word of mouth from satisfied clients and colleagues. Therefore, the better the job we do and the better the client satisfaction with our services, the more new clients we attract. Win, win.

7. We Work Well With Financial Advisors, Planners and Accountants

Because we don't sell financial services, life insurance, real estate, tax planning, or tax returns, we rely on the expertise of those who do. We see financial advisors, financial planners, and accountants as friends and teammates in helping our clients better protect their families and assets.

We believe our system of treating people with respect, doing high-quality work at a reasonable fee, and in an efficient matter, and not acting like, well, typical attorneys, is a good way to practice law in our narrow corner of the law called estate planning.

We Are Here for Our Fellow California Remainers

If you are a California remainer, we can help you protect your family and assets by setting up your customized California estate plan. And with your estate plan firmly established, you will have the confidence to make it through whatever comes your way in this crazy but beautiful state of ours.

Contact us for more info

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