Estate Planning Launched At State Employees CU

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RALEIGH, N.C.-Many credit unions have been around since long before their members were born, but State Employees CU here is helping members be prepared for what happens after they die.

SECU has rolled out an Estate Planning Essentials initiative designed for relatively simple estate planning. Sara Trexler, senior VP of Trust Services, said that it's a plan that should fit for most of the $21-billion CU's 1.6-million members.

"We were trying to find a way to have folks have accessibility to these services, but also have an element of quality control" where in the CU was familiar with the participating attorneys and had the confidence that those lawyers "could handle the possible complex situations that would be seen among our member group," said Trexler.

For those who require more complex estate planning, SECU is still ready to help, with services offered through Members Trust Co., a CUSO owned by a number of credit unions and CUNA Mutual.

"We were trying to find a way to make estate planning affordable, make it easy and make it accessible," she said. Members first meet with one of the CU's representatives about setting up any trusts, and then set up an appointment (at a SECU branch) with a participating attorney.

By the time the program was introduced to members, SECU had spent more than 15 months testing it with employees and its board. The lengthy process allowed SECU time to establish partnerships with several attorneys while it also worked out the kinks. For example, she said, the set-up did not originally involve meeting with a SECU trust representative, and the meetings with attorneys now result in more specific instructions to members on how to enact their estate plans.

Trexler said that Estate Planning Essentials was born out of a desire to help all of the CU's members, not just Baby Boomers and seniors. Marketing is mostly being done through in-branch signage and brochures, and SECU is casting a wide net. "We're targeting all age ranges with this," she said, offering the example that "newly married couples that have living parents and a living spouse may not realize that in North Carolina ... if you die without a will, your estate is going to be split between your parents and your spouse. That may not be what you want. We're really trying to get education for all of our age groups" and members at all economic levels.

Because the program is still new, SECU doesn't have demographic data available regarding member usage, but Trexler said they've seen everything from people in their 20s to much older members.

SECU has also tried to price the plan competitively, at $350 for married couples and $250 for individuals; Trexler said that the going rate for similar services is generally around $600 for a married couple. For those who can't afford the service, SECU is also offering a 12-month unsecured loan, priced at 10.75% with payroll deduction or 11.25% direct pay.

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