An article in the October, 2008 Florida Bar Journal, written by a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer and former member of the Florida Grievance Committee, reported on the most common complaints heard by the Board against Estate Planning and Probate attorneys. This article describes how our firm guards against client complaints by addressing these issues before they arise.
Communication: The article reports that the most common complaint against Estate Planning or Probate lawyers is poor communication. Amazingly, some attorneys and lawyers simply fail to return phone calls. Our firm has a standing policy to return all phone calls within 24 hours. This policy keeps communication going with clients and, in most cases, keeps misunderstandings from arising. Most Probate and Estate Planning related cases affect clients unfamiliar with this area of the law. By answering questions and keeping clients informed we have built up an excellent practice. Satisfied estate planning clients in turn refer us to friends and family for other Estate Planning and Probate cases.
Competence: Another common complaint is that a lawyer unfamiliar with Probate or Estate Planning takes on a Probate or Estate Planning matter. The inexperienced lawyer then flounders in this highly technical area creating many billable hours, but few results. At the Law Offices of Peter Klenk, we only work with Estate Planning, Probate and Estate related Litigation cases. Since 1995 we have done nothing else, it is all we do. If a client has some other matter, such as a divorce or personal injury case, we don’t take the case and muddle through, we refer the case out. We stick with what we know.
Excessive Fees: Unfortunately some attorneys… especially those who don’t understand the Estate Planning and Probate area… charge a client based on a percentage fee rather than billable hours and then do very little work. At our firm we bill hourly. If the job is simple or difficult, you pay us for what work we do. We also keep excellent records to back up our fees, where many attorneys only provide clients vague, undated lists without detail.
Conflicts of Interests: Some attorneys… usually those unfamiliar with Estate Planning and Probate… will take on clients with conflicting interests without fully understanding the conflict or informing the client of the conflict. You can imagine that working for both a parent and children when negotiating an inta-family sale or representing all siblings when trying to settle a contentious estate can present problems when the attorney is supposed to defend each client’s interests. An attorney can represent conflicting sides as long as each affected clients give an informed consent. In some circumstances such representation is the best choice for everyone involved, but unless you are familiar with Estate Planning it is difficult to judge when this is the case. Another practice that often lends to conflict is the attorney who is named by the client as power of attorney. I find that it is rare that a client has no one other than the lawyer to name as having this power and if there is no one else, I would only take on the job after documenting the reason and getting written consent from the client explaining all options available. Being a good Estate Planning and Probate attorney requires years of experience and specialized training, but having a good legal practice focusing on Estate Planning and Probate while keeping clients satisfied is another matter entirely. At the Law Offices of Peter Klenk we strive to be excellent Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers as well as provide excellent client service.
If you have an Estate Planning or Probate related question, please contact us for a free consultation. We would love to be your lawyer!