Prepaid Legal Services: Are They Worth the Money?
The American legal system is one of the best in the world. It’s as fair and balanced as an imperfect, manmade community construct can ever be, and the basic, guilty until proven innocent stance is incredibly liberal compared to the type of law practiced in the majority of the world’s countries. But the American legal system is also overflowing with civil lawsuits. It has become quite commonplace. If you have a gripe with someone, you take them to court. There have even been several reality TV shows that put these cases front and center, creating stars out of outlandish judges and their oddball docket. Thousands of people find themselves in legal trouble each and every year. The majority of them are good people, who never once thought they’d be in this situation. Because of this litigious culture, some firms have begun offering prepaid legal services. But are they worth the money?
The features of each plan are different, so it’s tough to make a sweeping statement that covers all of your bases. So first you have to understand what you are paying for. The most common plans involve some mix of free legal services, access to common documents and forms and discounts on more complex cases if you choose an attorney within a specific network. The legal services often cover things like preparing your will, managing a property purchase or navigating a divorce. It sounds quite good at first, and thousands of people do take advantage of programs like this. But studies have shown that as many as 50% of those people who sign up for prepaid legal services drop the plan after a year. That seems to say that these folks found it just wasn’t worth it in the long run.
You’ve got to pay close attention to what exactly is covered by the offered prepaid legal services. This is especially important if you don’t have any particular legal action pending, and are just considering it as an added bit of peace of mind. Make a list of your basic legal questions and concerns. If the majority of them are covered by the included services, it might make sense for you. If there’s a lot on that page that you don’t see included in the plan, you might want to think again. When you begin working with this firm they’ll probably try to upsell you to take care of your additional legal needs. But at that point you will have paid all of this money for services you aren’t using at all, just to end up paying again for the services you need. You’d probably be better off just paying for that service in the first place.
It’s important that you also take the time to look into the law firms covered in your plan. If you’re paying for consultations given by a particular group of attorneys, you’ve got to do your due diligence. Hop online and put in some time on research. Do those firms have a good reputation? Can you find personal recommendations from people who have used them in the past? Have there been any instances of malpractice, or bad press due to the mishandling of a case? If you’re buying into a relationship with that firm, you’ve got to make sure that you would choose to give them your business even without the prepaid service plan. If you think you might want to look elsewhere, then you should do just that.
In addition, make sure you only purchase a prepaid legal plan from the attorneys or the insurance company themselves. There have been cases where marketing firms have promoted plans, but in the fine print they declare they aren’t responsible for any of the guarantees made in the plan. With a prepaid arrangement, the goal should always be to create a working relationship that will hopefully grow over the long term. A sales company that only cares about commission, and sells these plans as just one of many products along withmedicare in Florida and car insurance in Texas won’t have that vested interest. If you’re unsure, check in with the American Bar Association or the Better Business Bureau. They will hopefully help you navigate away from the scams to find the real value you’ve been searching for.