The North Carolina State Employees Credit Union has a relatively new program called Estate Planning Essentials. Members of SECU are offered "estate plans" for $250, or $350 for married couples. The program description states that "[A] slate of experienced estate planning attorneys has been identified who have agreed to prepare these documents at a set price for Credit Union members." I don’t know who the "experienced" estate planning attorneys are, but I have yet to talk to an attorney who specializes or concentrates their practice in estate planning who would be willing to provide simple estate planning documents and a trip to the local SECU for these prices, much less offer any related advice. I certainly declined to participate in the program. Law firms, even small ones, have tremendous overhead, and it is not possible to provide good counsel and personalized services at such low prices.
Obviously SECU thinks this program is a great benefit for its members. I think it’s a tremendous disservice, as members will have no idea that their bargain basement “estate plans” will fail to cover or properly deal with many important issues both in the documents and otherwise (income and estate taxes, special needs planning, asset protection planning, incapacity planning, governmental benefits planning, form of asset ownership, beneficiary designations, etc.).
SECU says one of its "Trust Representatives" will be able to identify "these and other complex issues" and discuss these complex situations and address any additional planning that may be needed." Query what training, credentials and experience the Trust Representatives have as compared to attorney specialists in estate planning. In my experience, bankers often provide inappropriate or erroneous information in legal-related matters.
SECU members: Caveat emptor. This is a classic case of "you get what you pay for."