Frequently asked questions
Attorney Fees (11)
Other than the initial consultation fee, we usually do not require retainers to be paid at the beginning of our representation. One common exception: in guardianship, conservatorship and probate administration cases where we reasonably anticipate an objection or a barrier to a quick resolution, we may require a retainer.
Your time is just as valuable as ours. When we meet for the first time, we are already working for you. We help determine the scope of the problem, we offer suggestions on how to address it, and collect information that we will need to proceed with the matter. This is more than a meet and greet session. We expect you are ready to get to work and make decisions and we are also.
If you have questions or concerns about the fee, please raise them with the attorney who is providing the services. The Florida Bar also offers a fee arbitration mechanism, but we do not expect that you will need to go that far to resolve any fee dispute. Our attitude is that client satisfaction is important, both for our personal quality of work life and for the good business referrals it engenders. We would rather keep the lines of communication open and resolve any fee dispute even if we don’t agree on all the details. We know this can be a stressful thing to do, so we make a point in acknowledging that this can come up no matter how much we try to do the right thing as we serve you.
In a few cases (usually involving will and trust contests) we may be willing to discuss setting our fee as a percentage of the recovery for our clients. In such cases we will not ordinarily charge fees during the pendency of the case, and we will collect a fee only if our client receives an inheritance. We will be happy to discuss the possibility of contingency fees in individual cases.
At the first meeting, after we have considered your needs and the nature of the work involved, we will give you an estimate of the time involved, the work included and the fee we will charge. We will give you a written fee agreement that you can rely on.
When we act as a fiduciary (either trustee, guardian/conservator or personal representative) we may in some cases charge a percentage fee. In that case, our fee will usually be a percentage of the value of the trust or estate that we manage. Such a fee arrangement may be as a minimum fee; that is, we may set the percentage fee as the minimum, but charge more if the amount of work required is more extensive than would be covered by that fee. Some probate or trust administration work is done as a percentage fee. Florida Statutes set a presumed reasonable percentage fee which can be discussed.
We usually charge at an hourly rate for Medicaid applications and re-determinations, probate and trust administration and for adult guardianship matters. This is because the nature of the work and the amount of time required will vary from client to client, and because it can be difficult to predict these variables in advance. We often set a minimum fee that represents our best estimate of the cost of providing those services. We will notify you as soon as we have an indication that the hourly billing will exceed the minimum fee. We will also show you our detailed work or billing entries so you can see the cause of exceeding the minimum fee. In some cases, we will also be required to submit our hourly billing records to a court for approval, and so we are more likely to charge an hourly fee in those cases. Our hourly rate varies depending on whether the work is performed by the attorneys, paralegals, case managers, and other professionals who work on your case. We bill in quarter of an hour increments, with a minimum charge of .25 hours for each activity. The rates we charge are detailed in your written fee agreement.
Yes, we charge an initial consultation fee of $250. If you choose to retain us after initial consultation we will apply the initial fee to the final bill. We do this because the first meeting is already starting the work on your legal matters. For engagements that are billed on an hourly basis, this fee is often lower than the normal hourly rates charged by the attorney.
There are certainly other lawyers that do not charge an initial consultation fee. Many of those are in certain practice areas like personal injury where the hiring of the lawyer will be on a contingency fee basis. We choose to charge an initial fee so that we do not have to make up for that lost revenue on other clients who are decision makers and ready to hire our services, providing for a lower cost overall to all of our clients. We have found that people who are paying for services are more focused on making that first session productive for both of us.
Usually, yes. We are ordinarily happy to negotiate a flat fee agreement with you at the initial consultation, even in cases where we would ordinarily charge an hourly fee.
Not always. For most estate planning cases (wills, powers of attorney, revocable living trusts, special needs trusts, and deeds) and certain consultations, we charge a flat fee. This is easier when the work has a predictable start and ending point, and we can estimate the amount of time it will take us to complete the work which will not be affected by other people’s actions. It is our experience that clients usually prefer a flat fee arrangement, so that they know in advance how much they will be billed. Such an arrangement also allows our clients to schedule as many appointments and ask as many questions as may be necessary to ensure complete comfort with the final product, without being concerned about fees continuing to accrue as issues are resolved.
We sometimes are able to charge flat fees in probate proceedings; depending on our assessment of the likely complexity and the possibility of objections, contested creditors’ claims and the like. Most often we quote a minimum fee that represents what we think it will cost to complete the matter but we are not locked in should some unexpected thing occur. This enables you to have some realistic expectation of the fee without us having to set it higher than normal to hedge our bets of a guaranteed fee.
We also may charge flat fees for other services. For example, if a home visit is required for consultation with an attorney or execution of estate planning documents, we will add an extra flat-fee charge for that visit.
Offices and Appointments (1)
We now have an office in Naples were we schedule appointments for certain days of the week. We have this office for the convenience of our Naples clients, however, you may need to see us sooner than the scheduled days available in Naples and in that case you can consider an appointment at the Fort Myers location. You may drop off or pick up documents at any time during business hours at our Naples location.
Services Provided (3)
We learned a long time ago that if you want to provide complete solutions to clients that are not missing important considerations, you need to have a team approach. This has given us the opportunity to work with many professionals in our community. Sometimes they work directly in our field and provide care and assistance. We help you consider the best time of provider or professional for your needs. We often make referrals base on our past experiences with them. We can’t guarantee other persons’ work, so you should always continue to exercise good judgment in evaluating the performance of any provider (even your lawyer). We are happy to be that continued sounding board for you. We also help you find other lawyers when we are not the best fit for your needs.
If you consider the number of providers in our communities below you will see that this is one of the most helpful things we can do for you.
As of Dec. 2013 Charlotte County Collier County Lee County
Adult Day Care Center 2 Providers; 130 Beds 2 Providers; 101 Beds 7 Providers; 350 Beds
Adult Family Care Homes 24 Providers; 95 Beds 5 Providers; 22 Beds 19 Providers; 86 Beds
Assisted living Facilities 17 Providers; 1,017 Beds 23 Providers; 1,719 Beds 46 Providers; 2,773 Beds
Baker Act Facilities 2 Providers; 66 Beds 1 Provider; 28 Beds 2 Providers; 42 Beds
Home Health Agency 21 Providers 34 Providers 60 Providers
Homemaker and Companion Services 13 Providers 20 Providers 58 Providers
Hospitals 3 Providers; 699 Beds 5 Providers; 980 Beds 6 Providers; 1,614 Beds
Nurse Registries 3 Providers 10 Providers 22 Providers
Nursing Homes 9 Providers; 1,228 Beds 10 Providers; 908 Beds 19 Providers; 2,212 Beds
If you were not able to find an answer to your question, please contact Osterhout
Each client will have an attorney and paralegal assigned to work with them. Our paralegals are experienced and dedicated to your case to keep track of each step in the process. We provide a direct dial number to the paralegal assigned to your affairs to make it easier to reach the person knowledgeable of your specific needs. They will often seek to answer directly your questions or if not able, then they will seek to get enough information to pass along to the attorney for further direction. The paralegals are not meant as a screening device but they are a knowledgeable part of the legal team that keeps your matter moving along. We do charge for their time on your matter (if not a flat fee arrangement), and they often make the cost of providing legal services more reasonable in comparison to other legal providers.
The term Elder Law refers to the fact that many of the legal areas and knowledge has special significance to people reaching the age of retirement and accessing public benefits like Social Security and Medicare. The practice area also deals with the issues associated with aging like long term care, incapacity and dying. Clearly, these issues are not unique to people over 60. We serve many younger clients. These include children taking care of elderly parents, parents of impaired or disabled children as they transition into adulthood and people who want to plan for their own future incapacity or death.