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Estate Planning Lawyer Stefanie West and BiggieI Regularly Conduct Home Visits.

It is my experience that very few attorneys regularly conduct home visits. I have built my practice around home visits. I generally spend two days a week in the office and three visiting clients in their homes. I often feel like Mary Poppins with my fully-stocked rolling bag, which was given to me by one of my favorite clients.


I love visiting clients at home for a few reasons. First, it is my experience that people are more comfortable at home. We spend more quality time together and I get to know clients and their families better. I am able to see family photos and important family heirlooms. These experiences are meaningful and give me further insight into the family.


Second, it is often times more efficient to have meetings at clients’ homes. There are many documents to compile when putting together an estate plan. When meeting at home, a client merely has to go to the next room to retrieve a forgotten document. This helps to decrease the amount of outstanding tasks on our to-do list.


Third, clients appreciate the convenience of having me to come to them. In appreciation, I have been plied with delicious homemade treats.


Please note: Home visits are arranged on a case-by-case basis, and are primarily for my (beloved) clients in East Contra Costa County (Summerset, Trilogy and Discovery Bay), and for those clients who have difficulty traveling to the Walnut Creek office.
 

Estate Planning Lawyer Stefanie West with turtleI Want To Be A Part of Your Life.

I enjoy spending time with clients on those “happy occasions” and I also do my best to be there at a time of need. I recently accepted a Saturday invitation to a client’s surprise birthday party so that I could meet all four children and their spouses. I spent time with a daughter the night she took her mother to a nursing home for the first time. I have accepted numerous invitations when a client wants me there to discuss estate planning wishes with adult children. I am always there to support a client who has recently lost a spouse, child or parent.


I Generally Work on a Flat Fee Basis.

One of the first questions I get from potential clients is about my fees. In most situations, once I get a sense of the project, I will quote a flat fee. I prefer to bill on a flat fee for a few reasons. First, clients are more at ease when the fee is “out on the table.” It is my experience that, once I quote a flat fee, clients relax. We start swapping stories and getting to know one another. If I billed hourly, clients would spend more time looking at the clock or rushing our time together. This doesn’t feel right. Second, it is easier for me administratively to bill by a flat fee than to keep track of my time in seven minute increments. Third, there are no surprises when working on a flat fee.


However, some matters make more sense to be billed by the hour. In those situations, I am upfront and honest about the cost of the project and do my absolute best to stick within the range of fees quoted.

 

img 1483 300 truststefanie trio 250x250I Do Not “Nickel and Dime” My Clients.

We have all hired professionals who bill by the hour. While I believe that people should be paid for the work they do (and do well), I also believe that when professionals charge for every minute of time or Xerox copy made, clients think twice before calling again. I once hired a professional who failed to disclose that she would bill me for time chit-chatting and listening to her war stories about matters unrelated to our engagement. I never used her again.


I want to create an atmosphere where clients don’t hesitate to call. My clients know that, if they are at the bank and are having trouble re-titling an account to their trust, they can call me (and I won’t send a bill). If a client refinances their home and needs to know how to put their house back in their trust, they can call me (and I won’t send a bill). I also generally don’t bill for copies, office supplies, and gas to travel to your home.
If a client has a matter arise that takes significant time to answer or research (usually 45 minutes), I will be upfront and let that client know that I will bill for my time. Most clients recognize this as reasonable and do not try and take advantage of my generosity.


There are a few reasons behind my approach to billing. First, I want the job to be done right. If a client doesn’t call, a decision might be made without proper advice, causing a mistake that I could have resolved in ten minutes. Second, it takes me more time to prepare a bill than to answer the question and move on to the next matter. Third, it has been my experience that my generosity comes back in spades. If I am generous with my time and go the “extra mile,” my clients will refer me to their friends and family.


I Surround Myself With Good People.

You may find need for other professionals ranging from in home care services to financial advisors to contractors. I try to surround myself with other professionals to whom I would feel comfortable referring my parents.