(This article appeared in a recent National Publication)
Legal insurer sees increase in post-attack estate planning!
By Danny M. Boyd
Associated Press Writer
TULSA -- The image of the crumbling World Trade Center with thousands inside on Sept. 11 was enough to influence New Yorker Richard Nelson to ponder the status of his will.
Subsequent reports about tax complications faced by victims' heirs spurred him to join a prepaid legal plan and update his will with the help of a plan attorney.
Legal service underwriters report a surge in estate planning requests since the East Coast attacks. Heightened interest is boosting membership growth that had slowed for Ada-based Pre-Paid Legal Services.
"We were suddenly reminded of our mortality in a very clear fashion, and I think people realize we're not going to live forever," said Nelson, a Manhattan securities analyst for the Dutch firm ABN AMRO Inc.
More than 115 million Americans have some kind of legal coverage.
Through affiliated law firms, legal plans provide benefits that include attorney consultations, will preparation and trial representation.
Some basic services are complimentary; others often are provided by attorneys at reduced rates.
Pre-Paid Legal saw a 33 percent jump in the number of its New York state clients seeking advice about estate planning after the attacks. Nelson was among them.
"We have seen big increases comparing five weeks before and five weeks after," company Chairman Harland Stonecipher said. "The closer you get to the New York area, the higher the percentages."
Similar requests soared 47 percent among Pre-Paid Legal members in Pennsylvania, 31 percent in New Jersey, 30 percent in North Carolina and Michigan and 21 percent as far away as Oklahoma.
Long Island lawyer Bill Monaco, a Pre-Paid Legal associate, said calls to his office had dropped off 20 percent before the attacks but jumped 35 percent afterward.
Attorneys in the AARP Legal Services Network, available to members of AARP, have also fielded more calls for estate planning.
"I would say the calls I'm getting are double and triple what I was getting before," said Foster S.B. Friedman, an Alexandria, Va., lawyer affiliated with AARP.
Privately held Caldwell Legal in Sacramento, Calif., saw a 25 percent jump in estate planning requests among its members, said Crystal Caldwell Virtue, the company's executive vice president.
"There's an awful lot of people who are feeling the need for some sort of legal services," she said.
During the third quarter, Pre- Paid Legal's growth rate for new members dipped to 3.1 percent from 27.5 percent a year earlier. But membership has grown about 10 percent since the attacks, Stonecipher said.
Most men in their 30s and 40s -- the age range of many professionals killed at the World Trade Center towers -- have no will, he said.
"There's no question they are more receptive today," Stonecipher said.
Pre-Paid Legal's plan is offered through some employee benefit packages and to individuals. It includes a free basic will. Monthly premiums are $25.
The company's third-quarter earnings dipped to $7.26 million from $7.33 million a year earlier. Membership revenues rose 23.7 percent.
Read the story "If You Were My Attorney" if you would like to see what this plan is and how it can bulletproof your loved ones from future legal problems.