Pre-paid legal plans are a great deal for estate planning and more.
One of the best kept secrets from an employment benefits perspective is participation in pre-paid legal plans. Companies like MetLife Legal Plans, ARAG, Workplace Options, Legal Shield and other contract with companies to provide their employees access to free or discounted legal assistance.
Typically, the employee will have a modest, usually around $10, monthly payroll deduction in exchange for membership in one of those legal plans. The plans also contract with experienced attorneys in your area to provide services like estate planning, real estate contract review, bankruptcy, adoption, divorce.
Once the attorney confirms your participation in the plan, he or she will let you know how much the plan will cover. For example, for legal plan members with full estate planning coverage, the cost of a comprehensive estate plan is free. There are sometimes ancillary costs not covered, such as real property change of ownership work. But, it usually quite modest. A comprehensive estate plan with change of ownership work can cost between $2,000-3,000. With a legal plan, that cost can be reduced to less than $200.
Other plans require participating attorneys to offer a discount on their hourly or fixed fees. Attorneys are required to list their rates in advance so they cannot inflate them ahead of offering a discount. For matters like probate or business organization, a 10-25% discount can save plan member hundreds of dollars. Large companies like Bank of America, Deloitte, Apple, as well as some government agencies like the US Securities and Exchange Commission, understand the value of providing low-cost or no-cost legal services to their employees. As you consider your employment benefits during open enrollment or when you change jobs, you may want to consider adding a pre-paid plan to your existing benefit.