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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How can you avoid estate-planning fraud?

Estate planning fraud is on the rise. More and more companies are popping up, offering to sell unsuspecting customers “one-size-fits-all” estate plans and other services via telemarketing, bulk mailers and seminars. Most commonly, we see these companies offering “standard” living trusts that do not take into account your overall estate plan, are not drafted by an attorney and generally have a detrimental effect on your assets.

Without proper research and coordination, these living trusts often result in assets going to the wrong heirs, the trust being invalidated completely, Medicare or other governmental benefits being denied and increased tax liabilities.

In addition to harming your estate plan; these companies often sell your private information to identity thieves, who then open up fraudulent credit cards using your information. These criminals are almost impossible to find and prosecute, leaving victims to sort out their ruined credit without the help of law enforcement or advocates.

Spotting Shady Estate Planning Companies

These fraudulent estate planning companies use some standard practices to deceive people into giving them information and power over your assets. Here are some things you can look out for:

  • Anyone who does not allow you to check their credentials before providing information
  • Anyone who wants to sell you a “self-help” kit that requires you to transfer your assets without your supervision or without proper explanation
  • Anyone requiring an upfront fee or offers you a discount to “sign up now”
  • Anyone who exaggerates claims about the dangers of probate
  • Anyone who promises you that creditors cannot go after property in a living trust
  • A company using a name that is confusingly similar to other reputable companies like “AARP”
  • Anyone selling or giving away living trust services as a way to sell you annuities

What to do in the Face of Estate Planning Fraud

If anyone is trying to use high-pressure tactics to get you to establish a trust or other estate-planning tool, the best thing you can do is to not give them any information and exit the conversation.

If you suspect that the company that has contacted you might be a part of a scam, do some research before giving them money or information. Great sources for determining whether a company is fraudulent include:

 

  • Google Search the company name and the word “scam”
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • State Bar Associations – if an attorney is associated with the company, you can look them up on the state bar website or call the state bar and ask if there have been any complaints

 

An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

If a company purporting to provide you with a living trust or self-help kit has contacted you and you are not sure of their qualifications, please give us a call. Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning can help you assess the situation and provide you with competent advice on what your next steps should be. Call today at 925-224-1185 to schedule a consultation.


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