Today, many employers offer their employees prepaid legal services plans. Prepaid legal services plans can also be purchased by individuals. These plans allow the employee or member to consult an attorney on a very limited basis on matters such as identity theft, landlord tenant disputes, insurance claims, and basic estate planning. Depending on the type of coverage, the plan may also pay for an attorney to perform legal services such as reviewing a lease, writing a letter on behalf of the member, or preparing a basic will.
When you use prepaid legal services, you do not choose your own attorney. If you have a legal matter covered by the plan, you contact the plan and the plan will arrange for you to consult an attorney that has agreed to provide services according to their terms. You do not pay the attorney for covered services. The plan pays the attorney directly for covered services.
If you need a simple will, power of attorney, or living will, it is possible to have a prepaid legal services attorney prepare this type of document for you. A prepaid legal plan usually covers a phone consultation or a brief in person consultation with an attorney regarding your estate planning matter. However, do not expect to have your entire estate plan prepared by a prepaid legal attorney. The length of the consultation with the attorney is usually very brief and the attorney will be limited in the amount of time he or she can work on your matter.
If you have a large estate and need assistance with a trust designed to minimize estate or gift taxes, do not expect to have this type of trust prepared by a pre-paid legal services attorney. If you are interested in a special needs trust, miller trust, charitable trust, life insurance trust or any other complex type of estate planning trust, you will also need to hire an attorney at your own expense.
Should I Purchase Prepaid Legal Insurance for Estate Planning?
If you do not already have prepaid legal services coverage through your employer or another insurance plan, you should not purchase a prepaid legal services plan for the sole purpose of getting your estate plan done. If you do, it is likely you will be disappointed. A better option would be to contact several estate planning attorneys and discuss their rates. Try to negotiate a discounted rate or the lawyer’s best price for the services you need.
If you purchase a prepaid legal services plan with the goal of having your will, living trust, power of attorney, living will, pet trust, and other estate planning documents prepared under the plan, you will probably find that the plan only covers preparation of a basic will or power of attorney with very limited consultation time with an attorney. It is unlikely a prepaid legal plan will be comprehensive enough to cover preparation of all the documents you need to complete your estate plan. In addition, the attorney provided by the plan may not have a practice focused on estate planning or may be unable to spend adequate time with you to meet your needs.
Alternatives to Prepaid Legal Services
If you need help drafting a will, living trust or other estate planning documents and want alternatives to using prepaid legal services, see our Help With Estate Planning page. If you recently suffered the loss of a loved one and need help administering an estate, see our Estate Administration page.