Constantly in the news, it seems like there is a new scam making headlines. One surprising area in which scams are becoming more common is estate planning. Each year, more people fall victim to unscrupulous and unqualified sellers of ineffective estate planning documents. Often, these scammers are door-to-door salesmen or telemarketers.
Estate planning is a very personal and essential process to protect your loved ones and your assets. And all it takes is a scammer to mess that all up. A Webwire article, titled "How to Avoid an Estate Planning Scam," points out things to keep in mind when considering your estate planning options.
Employ a qualified estate planning attorney. Do-It-Yourself is very popular these days, from home improvement to filing income taxes. There are many websites that offer DIY wills. Beware! Estate planning is not a point-and-click or fill-in-the-blank proposition: it is a complex area of law with different rules depending on where you reside. Use a licensed, experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your estate plan. Check with the state bar and make sure he or she is licensed to practice law in your state.
Take Your Time. We are all in a rush these days. Everything has to be on-demand. Well, an experienced and qualified estate planning attorneys will not be rushed—and that is a good thing. He or she will take the time necessary to get to know you and your goals for estate planning. Likewise, you should know that you have the ability to ask questions and to seek additional information about their services. If you attend an estate planning seminar, do not feel pressured into purchasing their products or services on the spot, and never purchase a pre-printed or pre-fabricated "Living Trust Kit.” Your loved ones and your property deserve more than this, and you will get it by speaking one-on-one with an estate planning attorney.
Ask Questions.The original article reminds us that a qualified estate planning attorney has years of legal training and experience, and should be able to explain all planning scenarios and potential outcomes in easy-to-understand language. The article suggests that if the language is too difficult to understand, do not sign it.
Lastly, the original article cautions that it pays to remember the old adage "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." If you hear someone tell you, "Anyone can write a will," or "You don't need to be an attorney," be assured that this person does not have the training, education, and experience to do a thorough job. An unlicensed or unqualified "professional" may be able to offer you a screaming deal, but recall another old adage: "You get what you pay for." Many times families that use such a service do not discover there is an issue until after the person’s death—when it is too late to correct the mistake. This can mean assets passing to unintended recipients, unnecessary taxes and fees, and heated fights between loved ones.
A qualified estate planning attorney will team with you to create an appropriate plan that meets your objectives and your family’s needs—without any pressuring sales job.
Reference: Webwire (August 29, 2014) "How to Avoid an Estate Planning Scam"