By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
December 11, 2018
Estate Planning Scams Floridians Should Watch Out For
Scammers are everywhere, but estate planning scammers are especially vile. After all, it won’t be easy for your beneficiaries to undo the work of a scammer while trying to distribute property and mourn the loss of their loved one.
Keep an eye out for popular estate plan scams to keep yourself and your estate safe.
Don’t Trust Living Trusts
The National Consumer Law Center has issued warnings to seniors who are receiving calls and hearing pitches from people pushing living trusts. Be very wary about these people. A living trust is not a living will, and for many seniors, they are completely unnecessary.
As you sort through your mail, you might see pre-printed trust kits and other advertisements that say living trusts are the only defense against the government stealing your money after you die. Don’t pay attention to them.
Don’t Engage in “Door-to-Door” Estate Planning
Reputable estate planners do not go door-to-door to try to get your business, nor do they cold-call you like a telemarketer. Yet that is exactly what many of this new breed of estate planning scammers does, using hard-sell methods and scare tactics to convince people that they need to buy their products immediately.
Alternatively, there are a lot of estate planning seminars that have popped up where similar “on-the-spot” purchases are pushed hard. While estate planning seminars aren’t inherently bad, good attorneys will understand that you need time to digest and research the information, and won’t push you to pay right away.
You should never make financial decisions this way, but certainly not where your estate is concerned. Again, you need to get in touch with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
DIY Will Sites
These have actually been around for a while, and many people are attracted to them due to their perceived simplicity. After all, who doesn’t want to be able to “do” their will in a half-hour or so, using a form where you just have to fill in the blanks and that doesn’t involve the cost of an attorney?
Unfortunately, there’s a reason wills are unique – because people are unique! We all have little wrinkles in our lives that don’t fit into pre-written wills, and many of these DIY forms don’t allow for that. Moreover, it’s all too easy to complete an online will form that doesn’t even adhere to the laws of your state.
Bottom line? Not worth it.
How to Avoid Estate Planning Scams
- Bring your personal representative, children, or spouse for a meeting with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help them prepare for the next steps and where they need to go to distribute your estate after you pass away.
- If you don’t understand a document, don’t sign it. Ask thorough questions throughout the estate planning process. A good attorney should be able to give you thorough, informed answers to help you understand your will and how it will distribute your assets after death.
- “Shop” for estate planning attorneys before you hire one. Read their websites and any resources they have for clients thinking about estate planning. Have initial questions ready – if they can’t (or won’t) give you answers, they may not be a good fit.
Estate planning affects you and your family after your death. Stay skeptical of scammers and start looking for a good estate planning attorney today.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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