Legal Plans: What’s the Verdict?

According to one source, Americans have a 10 percent chance of being sued in any year, and a 33 percent chance over their lifetime.

Although some employee assistance programs (EAPs) provide legal services, benefits are usually very limited. Group legal plans can fill this benefits gap. Before you offer a plan, though, here are a few facts to consider:

There are two types of legal plans: an access plan and a legal insurance plan. According to the American Prepaid Legal Services Institute’s 2004 survey, most people enrolled in group legal service plans have an access plan, also known as a prepaid legal plan.

An access plan gives members access to an attorney from a preselected network, who will provide a specified number of hours of legal advice or consultations per year at no charge. Typical services might include a simple real estate contract review or simple will. When participants need more in-depth services, they pay the lawyer directly, but the plan typically guarantees a discount off the lawyer’s usual hourly rates.

Legal insurance plans differ from access plans. A legal insurance plan is an insurance contract that works like an HMO, where the participant buys an insurance policy, pays monthly premiums and uses a “preferred provider” for services. And like most HMOs, as long as the service you require is covered and you use a network provider, you do not have to fill out claim forms and wait for reimbursement. If you use an out-of-network lawyer, your service will be reimbursed up to a certain (lower) amount.

Legal insurance policies are designed to meet the legal needs of most middle-class families. They cover simple family law matters, such as simple wills, uncontested divorces, uncontested adoptions, juvenile court proceedings, minor motor vehicle proceedings (such as speeding, reckless driving, etc.) and IRS audit protection and defense services. Some plans also offer an unlimited number of phone consultations, identity theft services and immigration services. For more information on legal access plans, legal insurance or other voluntary benefits, contact USI.  

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