Odd experience with employee benefit documents

Over the years I’ve collected sample employee benefit documents from former employers, the IRS, insurance and investment companies, members of Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc., and my own clients. They’ve been loaned back and forth and changed, mashed, updated and reviewed many times. They used to be posted in an online library but I don’t do that anymore. I don’t have any way to backtrack the origins or history at this point.

The point is that these documents can be used for illustration, discussion, drafting ideas, education, etc. but cannot be used as representations of a document that will be useful in s specific purpose. That would be unlawful practice of law. Not to get sidetracked but unlawful practice is a topic dragged through the mud and covered elsewhere including my own earlier blog posts.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had a consult with a business owner and sent him a couple of these sample documents that seemed to fit his situation. He said that he had a lot of experience with contracts and then preceded to send at least half a dozen.

I’m generally aware that employee benefit plans are problematic. IRS has issued statements to this effect and I remember discussions from my former employers who were benefits practice attorneys who could always find a way to rip apart a plan document.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one without an error. IRS confirms that most have errors serious enough to disqualify them from tax-favored status. Yet I’ve never had a small business client care so much about the details as this client. What’s more, this client has no employees except for him and his wife. They could (as the saying goes) written their employee benefits document on the back of a napkin with impeccable results.

Certainly there’s much to be admired in the pursuit of perfection, perhaps even more so when it comes to legal documents. I’ve written him several times saying how I appreciate the feedback and corrections. Yet, in the end, this experience strikes me as unnatural.


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