Penny Wise or Pound Foolish?


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We are aware that this process can seem expensive.  Hiring a competent attorney to provide specialized services is never fun nor free.  But, when you compare the time, money and aggravation saved by doing this work, it should be immediately obvious that the benefits far outweigh the expense.

What is really disconcerting, however, is the immense amount of confusion there is in the marketplace.


Four Levels of Estate Plan Creation in the Marketplace

  1. Forms Vendors and the Trust Mills
  2. Attorneys in General Practice
  3. Attorneys who Specialize – Like Our Firm
  4. Attorneys who Specialize and Charge Much More Than We Do



Forms Vendors and the Trust Mills

The forms vendors, like We the People or Legal Zoom, provide paper.  Nothing more.  They admit they are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice.  They essentially provide forms for you to fill out and hope for the best.  For those of you who would use a service of this sort, I suggest you go to the law library and pick up the forms for free.  Why pay anything for forms that are easily available for free?  I liken this to purchasing a scalpel and performing heart surgery on yourself.

The trust mills are little better.  

Usually put on by insurance agents, you are invited to a seminar to find out about how a living trust will keep you out of probate, avoid unnecessary taxation, etc. And, on occasion, the information is good.  They will then offer you a trust package “prepared by an attorney” for a very low fee.

What they don’t tell you is that you will never meet the attorney; the insurance agent will gather the information and submit it to a law firm who will then prepare a packaged estate plan based upon the information they receive.  The insurance agent will then deliver the estate plan to you, have you sign it, and thereafter attempt to gather additional financial information in order to sell you an annuity or life insurance product.  The estate plan is a loss leader to get in the door. It may or may not be suitable for your situation.  But, they don’t care; they’re there to sell insurance product.

The second level of practitioner is…


Attorneys in General Practice

You’ve seen them in the telephone book. They’re the ones who practice estate planning, real estate, family law, corporate law and any other area in which a client might need service.

I liken this to going to see your Primary Care Physician (your family doctor at the clinic) and asking him to perform brain surgery.  You’d never do that! Why?  Because if you need brain surgery, you want the doctor who performs brain surgery everyday; the specialist.  It’s the same way with estate planning.  This area is sufficiently complex such that using a generalist may or may not meet your true planning needs.


Attorneys who Specialize – Like Our Firm 

Our practice is limited to estate planning and narrow attendant areas like asset protection and business succession planning.  This is essentially all we do.


Attorneys who Specialize and Charge Much More Than We Do 

We like to bring to our clients what we consider to be exceptional value.  We are not the cheapest, but we provide exceptional service at a fair price.

Consider the following quote from John Ruskin, a 19th century artist/critic and social revolutionary:

It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s much worse to pay too little.  When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all.  But, when you pay too little, you stand to lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and, if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.

These are wise words. I remember the time I wanted to have my kitchen painted.  I went with the guy who had the lowest price.  Unfortunately, his work was so poor, I had to have it redone spending much more than if we had had paid a little more and had it done right the first time.  I was “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”.

Just a little something to keep in mind as you shop for the person you want  to create your estate plan.

Bottom line, don’t cheat yourself or family and seek an experienced law firm such as Steven M. Greenwood, P.C. that specializes and limits its practice to estate planning, trust administration, asset protection, and business succession planning and is priced very competitively. 

If we can answer any questions or provide a complimentary counseling session to discuss your specific needs, please contact us at 805-277-5020 or e-mail

Wealth Counsel

Wealth Council



Contact Us

Steven M. Greenwood, P.C.
2801 Townsgate Rd., Ste. 210
Westlake Village, CA 91361

805-277-5020 - Phone
805-277-5021 - Fax

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