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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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Can a lawyer bill you for an estimate of his services? The

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Can a lawyer bill you for an estimate of his services? The inquiry was made by our financial advisor to the lawyer he selected. This lawyer had worked for our Family Trust before and had been paid. The lawyer supposedly had to review one state's law on the use of a wavier of liability form that our financial advisor had recommended which was not accepted by the Executors. This state was the state where the trust was drawn up but not the state under which the benificieries were being paid. When previously hired, he did not charge for an estimate for his services that were requested by the financial advisor. We believe this charge not to be necessary and a cost of doing business that we had already paid for in his earlier fees. Asked in a different manner, if you call any lawyer on any matter and ask for an estimate of his/her fees, can they charge you for that estimate even though you din't use any services at that time?

The long and short answer is yes and no. There is no law which controls what a lawyer can and cannot bill you for. Your attorney-client agreement should spell out what he will charge for clearly. If not, then it is open game.

That being said, just because he charges for it does not mean you cannot dispute it with him or refuse to pay it. At that point it becomes a matter of negotiation. Of course, as you are dealing with a lawyer, they could always threaten to sue you or otherwise withdraw from representing you and leave you without a lawyer in the work he is doing for you.

Unfortunately, legal work is expensive. Lawyers bill when they do anything concerning your case. The fact that the financial advisor asked the lawyer to fill out a waiver which dealt with another state's law would require the lawyer to look up that law. Dealing with the financial advisor is part of his work on the estate. It is likely a billable matter.

Again, this should not stop you from disputing the matter if you think it is unfair. On the face, it seems like something that could be billed for by a lawyer. But you are much closer to the facts are than I am. Many lawyers are willing to take a matter off their bill when they are confronted with a complaining client. When you call, tell him you are not going to be billed for the telephone call either since you are calling to dispute the bill.

On your second question. The laws of the state where the trust was drawn up would control certain terms of the trust. Further, depending on where the waiver of liability was going to be enforced, the different state laws might have different legal implications. Each state's trust law is different.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

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Best Regards,