As the need for affordable legal services becomes even more important in today’s world, it's common to opt for group legal insurance offered through your workplace benefits. These group insurance plans provide free legal assistance for a variety of needs from law firms that have contracted with the insurance company to provide the legal work.
While group legal insurance might seem like an easy option to save on your family’s legal needs, it’s often inadequate for creating the kind of estate plan you really need to protect your assets, your choices, and your loved ones. In fact - the type of estate plan, will, or trust created through legal insurance programs could leave your family with a big mess.
Here are the reasons why estate planning for your family demands a heart-centered, counseling-oriented approach and guidance beyond the scope of your group legal insurance coverage. I’ll help you understand the potential pitfalls of using group legal insurance for estate planning and share suitable alternatives to ensure your assets are properly protected and that your loved ones are left with a legacy of love, and not a big mess.
When it comes to estate planning, if you have people you love and assets you care about, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan that works for you and your family. While there are almost always at least, and sometimes 4 key documents in a standard estate plan–a will, trust, health care directive, and power of attorney–tthere are additional pieces of planning that are quite important for your family, depending on the specifics of your family dynamics and the nature of your assets, to ensure that your plan actually will work when your family needs it. Not to mention the content of these 4 documents must be specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of your family.
Each person and each family has unique circumstances that require custom planning to ensure their plan works the way you want it to. Your financial, medical, and personal needs must be taken into account to craft a comprehensive plan that will serve you now and pass on your assets in the best way after you’re gone, all while ensuring the best use of your resources during your life.
Your group legal insurance plan may have the 4 key documents of an estate plan, but a generic set of planning documents is unlikely to work for you the way you want, and will almost certainly guarantee your family will end up lost and confused when something actually happens to you, and your family needs the support of the plan you created to guide them.
To create a plan that will truly work for you and your family, your planning process needs to begin with an evaluation of your assets and family dynamics and needs to educate you about the application of the law to your specific situation. This is why we don’t have a one-size fits all solution, but instead begin our planning with you looking holistically at everything you have, everyone you love, and what you desire for the people you love.
The type of cookie-cutter estate plan you are likely to receive through your group legal insurance simply won’t include the kind of comprehensive considerations and counseling necessary to deliver a plan that will serve you and your loved ones in the way you would want while keeping your family out of court and conflict.
Many group legal insurance plans boast free legal services after your deductible is paid, but what isn’t revealed is the limit of the coverage that’s covered for free.
Only certain types of legal services are covered under group legal insurance plans. Estate planning is frequently covered, but the kind of plan you will receive is a mere set of documents, similar to what you could create yourself online, and not a customized, well-counseled plan that will be sure to work when your family needs it.
Plus, some items that are essential to the creation of your plan, like notary stamps or fees to file documents with the state, are not included in the covered service and are instead charged to you as an extra expense.
More importantly, most legal insurance plans have limits to the amount of claims you can file for each type of service each year. For example, you may only be covered to create a Will once a year, but won’t be covered if you need to update your estate plan mid-year if circumstances change or someone dies. Estate planning isn’t something you do once, as your life will change, your assets will change, and the law will change. A legal insurance covered plan will not keep up with those changes, so you may receive documents, but those documents aren’t likely to be what your family needs when something happens to you.
Creating an estate plan isn’t just about a Will or a Trust or passing on your money after you’ve died. It’s about making wise decisions about the use of your resources throughout your life, leaving your assets in a way that creates a legacy, not a mess, and creating the best reality possible for yourself and your loved ones.
As your dedicated Personal Family Lawyer®, I take a holistic approach to serving you by working closely with you and your family to understand what matters to you, your family's dynamics and values, and the aspirations you have for your family as a whole. Then, I review and consider all of your assets, including the intangible assets often left out of planning. Then, together, we create a truly personalized plan that takes into account every aspect of your family's well-being for the near and long-term
What’s more, your needs and your family's needs will change over time. You’ll buy new assets and sell others. You may have another child, or become a grandparent. Your son may start a business or your sister may develop a disability.
That’s why it’s crucial to coordinate your estate plan with the circumstances of your loved ones so that your wishes are honored and your assets are protected no matter how their situation changes over time.
To do this, I look at how your wishes and the circumstances of your loved ones intersect and can provide you with personalized guidance at any stage in life’s journey.
In addition, our planning process includes creating an inventory of all of your assets and we review your entire plan, including all of your decisions and your asset inventory for free every three years to make sure the plan we created for you will continue to serve you and your family in the way you intended. By doing this, we can identify any areas of your plan that need to be changed and any new assets that need to be coordinated into your plan.
Estate Planning is a journey that spans a lifetime. As your finances, needs, and wishes evolve over time, your estate plan must adapt accordingly. Relying solely on group legal insurance won’t provide the ongoing support and guidance needed to address changing circumstances over the years.
Under group legal insurance, your choice of attorneys is limited to the firms that have contracts with the insurance company, and there is no guarantee that the attorney you worked with this year will be available to help with changes to your plan next year.
Your children will grow into adults. That means you’ll lose your ability to make decisions for them unless you update your estate plan to nominate a Permanent Guardian or Power of Attorney for them. We can help with that.
You may wish to leave your house to your daughter but you worry about the longevity of her marriage. We will help you look at all of these considerations as part of our planning with you now and as they come up in the years that follow.
Time-sensitive changes to your plan that are needed as a result of a sudden emergency or death in the family may be impossible to carry out when using an attorney through group legal insurance. Instead, you want to work with an attorney who knows your family’s story and can pick up right where you left off, allowing them to quickly and effectively address any needed changes to your plan with just a phone call.
While group legal insurance may seem like the ultimate way to protect your loved one’s future legal needs and your family’s wallet, sadly, the services available through these group insurance plans simply aren’t comprehensive enough to ensure you and your family get the support and guidance they need, and deserve.
Instead, it’s crucial to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who gets to know your family on a personal level and can guide you every step of the way.
Your estate planning journey deserves personalized attention, compassionate understanding, and unwavering dedication. That’s why we have dedicated our practice to using a form of estate planning we call Life & Legacy Planning, allowing us to guide you skillfully through the decision-making process while looking ahead to proactively avoid issues in the future.
If you want to make sure your loved ones are always cared for no matter what the future holds, schedule a phone call with us and I’ll share all the details of our Family Wealth Planning Session, which kicks off our Life & Legacy Planning process.