You might have heard about legal plans before, most likely from your employer. Your company may even offer "group legal plans" to employees. But you probably still find yourself asking, "What is a legal plan, and how can it help protect me and my family?
Don't worry, it's not as difficult as it seems.
What Is a Legal Plan?
Generally speaking, a legal plan is an all-inclusive service that provides affordable, everyday legal services that will meet your basic legal needs. For example, if you join a legal plan and pay a monthly fee, you'll be able to call and get advice from a local lawyer if your legal issue is on the list of covered legal issues. Simple legal services like will preparation and document review may also be covered.
By joining a legal plan, you eliminate the need to research attorneys, cost compare, and then select your lawyer. Lots of companies offer legal plans as a voluntary benefit. That is, you can, but don't have to, select a legal plan as part of your benefits package.
But many companies don't offer legal plans, and some plans offered by employers may not truly meet your personal legal needs, like needing a will written or a contract reviewed. If this is your situation, you may want to seek out a personal legal plan.
How Do I Pick a Legal Plan?
If you've never considered a personal legal plan before, how do you decide if it's right for you?
At its core, a legal plan is like insurance: You pay a certain amount for a plan, and in exchange you get a set amount of legal services. And, like insurance, you should consider your current lifestyle as well as your future needs when selecting the right coverage.
But unlike medical insurance where you pay money in the hopes you won't ever need it, the money you pay for a legal plan is used for things that everyone needs. For example, legal plans commonly include options such as:
- Consultation calls with a local, qualified lawyer;
- Preparation of specific documents, such as a personal will;
- Review of important legal documents like employment contracts and leases;
- Assistance with tax preparation; and
- Discounts on complex legal matters requiring a specialist, such as criminal trials or bankruptcies.
In fact, you may want to think of legal plan as akin to having an on-call "family lawyer" (similar to having a "family doctor") who can help answer many of your most common everyday legal issues and keep you moving in the right direction if a complex legal matter pops up.
When choosing a legal plan, consider which legal services you know you'll need right away, such as preparing a will or getting a lease reviewed. Also consider which services you anticipate needing in the future, such as family law help if you are a single parent of small children. Then look for a plan that includes the services you know you need, and contemplates the services you think you may want to use in the future.
If you are a small businessperson, you may need to consider a specialized business legal plan to ensure you will have access to specialized business legal services.
Also, look for legal plans that offer protections in case you find that the legal plan you selected is not right for you. It's not uncommon to see 30-day money-back guarantees or other satisfaction warranties.
Where Do I Find a Personal Legal Plan?
If your employer does not offer a legal plan option in your benefits package, you are not out of luck. Searching online will lead you to personal legal plans such as LegalStreet, which offers the protections of a group legal plan without the necessity of group buying. In the case of LegalStreet, you get a range of services -- including a free personal will, tax hotline, phone consultations, and discounts -- for just $12.50 per month, on average.
Legal plans are an important way to protect your family and yourself, without having to spend a lot of money. Knowing that you have an on-call "family lawyer" when things go wrong? That's priceless.
Disclosure: LegalStreet and FindLaw.com are owned by the same company.
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