Backes & Backes LLC

An estate plan is a gift to those who survive you,Dignity and diligence in the practice of elder law

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Firm Overview

Our firm philosophy begins with a commitment to strategies and outcomes the meet the singular needs of each client. No two clients face identical circumstances, no two clients share identical goals, and we endeavor to tailor each representation to the complete needs and wishes of the client. It is easy in law to let the "tail wag the dog," and our commitment is to look beyond what is merely ordinary or typical to what can best address the unique challenges and opportunities of every representation.

Peter Backes began practicing law in Trenton, New Jersey more than 125 years ago. Since then, the family has practiced law in central New Jersey for four generations. The present firm was founded in 1997.

Example cases

Like many families in New Jersey, our clients came to us unaware of the estate and inheritance tax exposure they faced in their estate planning. Most of their assets were in real estate, and they wished to transfer the real estate to their children in life in lieu meaningful estate planning. The tax consequences of such gifting would have been far more significant than they imagined, and if they had left no estate plan at all the estate taxes would have been substantial. By considering the particular wishes of the family through the lens of estate planning and asset preservation, we were able to formulate a plan that allowed them to do what they wanted to do in life, while still protecting their present assets and minimizing their estate tax exposure.

With proper planning, guardianship proceedings can often be avoided. In this case, the time for planning had passed, and a guardianship action was the only way to protect the husband of our client after his mental capacity had diminished. The particular needs of this family required careful and creative collaborative work to arrive at the desired goal while protecting the dignity of those involved.

Main Office

Main
12 West Delaware Avenue
Pennington  NJ  08534

Phone
  • (609) 730-3838
Fax
  • (609) 730-4224

Fees

Free Initial Consultation?

Except for high-asset tax planning, I do not charge for initial consultations unless the client requests an extensive review and agrees in advance to pay a fee.

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

Most estate planning matters are handled at a fixed rate once the client's needs are understood. This cost varies too widely to be usefully quoted. At the moment of this writing, I have an estate plan I am preparing for a lower-income client for $400 and a complex plan that will be nearly $5,000.

Hourly Rates

Between $275 and $350 per hour for those matters that are handled on an hourly basis.

Office Information

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Emergency After Hours

No

Languages Spoken

Fluent in Japanese and conversational in French, Italian, and basic ASL.

How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

My firm works extensively in estate matters- estate planning, administration, and litigation. These are areas that are very meaningful to my clients, who are real people with real problems, and that makes the work satisfying to engage in. These are also very interesting areas of law, combining some of the oldest law with some of the most cutting-edge developments.

Elder law is natural extension of my multi-disciplinary practice. Elder law, perhaps uniquely, is defined by the population it serves and not by the particular practice skills. Because I am both counselor and litigator working in this field, I hope that I am particularly well-situated to provide the representation my clients require.

What is your firm's point of view regarding clients educating themselves on legal issues?

Nearly all of my clients come to me after educating themselves, to varying degrees, in the areas of law where they require representation. This is quite different from 30 or even 10 years ago, and is a welcome development in my view. While I have heard attorneys complain about clients calling with "something they read on the internet," I want my client as knowledgeable and fluent in the area of their work as possible. A collaborative approach, built on mutual respect, typically produces the best results; some of my most satisfying work has been in representing other attorneys who come to me because the focus of their practice is elsewhere. I do not say that I ask my clients to do more research than they wish, but I have only respect for the client who educates themselves about the issues that affect them.

Is your firm willing to review documents prepared by clients?

Review of client-prepared documents is a tricky subject. I am not ideologically opposed to it, and I do not seek to bolster the reputation of my profession by saying that it is beyond the reach of the lay person to prepare certain documents. That said, I cannot in good conscience undertake a representation where I do not feel I can make a meaningful contribution, and in my experience client-prepared documents are rarely the sort of thing that just require a little adjustment. More typically, the documents I see from conscientious clients are adequate. If the client is satisfied with an adequate document, then they do not need my professional services. If the client wishes to move beyond 'merely adequate,' it is rarely cost-effective to simply modify the client-prepared document.

On this subject, I want to stress one particular item: the overwhelming majority of people have no Will, and I would far prefer anyone prepare their own Will from a template or using whatever resources are available than foregoing having a Will at all. If, ultimately, the Will is brought to me for review, it is very likely that I will use it primarily as an excellent statement of the person's wishes and will draft a new Will whole-cloth, but not every Will is brought to an attorney for review, and in almost every conceivable instance it is far better to have a Will than not to.

Is your firm willing to coach clients who want to represent themselves?

If I am unable to be of meaningful help to a potential client, or if finances or other circumstances make representation impossible, I frequently direct the potential client to all the resources I know of to attempt to help them help themselves.

Pierson W. Backes

While in law school, I worked at a prominent larger Philadelphia law firm and at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

Every case and every client makes me a better lawyer. The lawyers and professionals around me who I work with every day make me a better lawyer. My adversaries -- some the greatest attorneys I've met, in some cases -- make me a better lawyer.

I seek to retain the benefits of working with a small law firm while providing the level of sophistication often associated with larger firms.

Personal interests:

For many years, I served on the board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey. I was a founding board member and first chairperson of Headlong Dance Theater in Philadelphia. I have assisted in the formation and operation of a number of contemporary performing arts organizations.

License
  • Bar Number: 026951997
    New Jersey , 1997
  • Bar Number: 80349
    Pennsylvania , 1997
Education
  • Temple University School of Law
    Juris Doctorate , 1997
    Philadelphia, PA
    • Editor, Law Review
    • Recipient, Trial Advocacy Award
  • Hamilton College
    Bachelor's Degree , 1991
    Clinton, NY

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