Are Lawyers Expensive?

I had two people come to me this past week and say something to the effect of, “That’s a lot less expensive than I thought you were going to charge me.”  And I think that fear and that assumption about a lawyer’s services is what causes people to avoid seeking the services of an attorney.

If you were asked to picture an attorney, you would probably imagine a person who was dressed in an expensive suit, who lives in a nice house, and who drives a European luxury car.  Given those assumptions, the lawyer must charge a lot of money for his/her services because the lawyer must support that lifestyle.

Now not everyone who comes to see me thinks my services aren’t that expensive.  Perception of cost is an individual thing.  What one person thinks is expensive, another might think is inexpensive.  It’s similar to the question, “Do you think this painting is nice?”  You are going to get a wide variety of answers based upon personal opinions.

But here’s a good reason why I know my services aren’t that expensive and, probably, in most instances, are less expensive than people anticipate.  A large portion of my practice involves planning for my clients’ potential or actual eligibility for the Medicaid program.  Medicaid is a government health payment plan for needy individuals.  Nearly all my clients who ask me to assist them with qualifying for Medicaid benefits never thought and never wanted to qualify for Medicaid benefits.  They only see the need to qualify for Medicaid because of the oppressive costs associated with long-term care.

Many of my clients reside in nursing homes or assisted living residences, the cost of which can be upwards of $14,000 a month.  At those prices, many people would find themselves a bankrupt within several years.  If the person needing care has a spouse, the spouse finds themselves in a desperate situation, pay for their loved one’s care yet have no remaining means to pay for their own well-being.

Faced with the costs of long-term care, clients ask me to assist them with qualifying for Medicaid benefits and preserve a portion of their assets.  In recent years, several non-attorney Medicaid advisory companies have popped up.  They style themselves as “Medicaid experts” ready to assist you with qualifying for Medicaid benefits.  The nursing homes and assisted living residences frequently tout the services of these companies, in some cases harassing families to retain their services.

Among the many falsehoods that families are told is that these companies charge far less than the exorbitant fees that attorneys charge.  Here’s the reality:

The fees that many of these companies charge are often thousand of dollars (in some cases double) the fees that I charge.  The facilities tout these non-attorney Medicaid advisory companies because the owners of the Medicaid advisory companies and the nursing homes are often related, either by blood or relationships.  In other words, the companies are working for the nursing home that touts the services of the advisory company, that’s why the nursing home is touting those services.

The advisory companies have no interest in attempting to preserve your assets for your spouse’s benefit.  In fact, because they work for the nursing home, and not you, they are interested in discovering what assets you have so that they can ensure those assets are spent on the care the nursing is providing.

In short, because of the fear of the cost an attorney might charge, these companies are getting you to pay more for their services and get less (much less) of a service.