requires great care and caution
Think it can't happen to you? Well, think
again. Scams and frauds are proliferating all the time, and virtually no
one is immune. Many common frauds specifically target senior citizens.
In fact, estate planning fraud is one of the more common types of frauds
perpetrated on seniors.
So what is estate planning? Simply
stated, it's the process of establishing arrangements for the smooth
transfer of your property and other financial assets to your heirs.
Estate planning typically is designed to minimize the taxes and fees
that will be assessed to your heirs.
Proper estate planning will give you the
peace of mind of knowing that your assets will be disbursed according to
your final wishes. Unfortunately, estate planning has become a growing
area of consumer fraud. One area of particular concern is the growing
number of salespeople who are make unsolicited calls to seniors and
urging them to sign living trusts or new wills. The fact about such
documents is that they must be customized to the individual's needs to
have any value. That's because what might be a valuable planning tool
for one person will be worthless to others. And in some cases, hucksters
out there are charging senior citizens thousands of dollars for nothing
more than pre-printed legal forms bought at office
supply stores. These boilerplate documents simply aren't appropriate for
many clients. Worse yet, some of them are legally defective.
When it comes to estate planning, con
artists are like sharks circling their prey, promoting their business to
trusting seniors with false or deceptive statements, high-pressure sales
tactics and outright fraud. Here are some tips that will help you avoid
becoming a victim or estate planning fraud:
- Research the credentials of the
- Do your own research, using free
resources such as the Internet and the public library as much as
- Avoid dealing with anyone who
approaches you first or makes a door-to-door or telephone sales
pitch. If you need professional estate planning services, seek them
out in the phone book or by referral from your Chamber of Commerce,
- Bureau or a trusted friend or family
- Beware of salespersons who use a hard
sell approach and insist that you must act immediately. Instead,
take your time when making important financial
- Beware of salespersons who tell tales
of devastating financial impacts if you don't act.
- Beware of salespersons who discourage
you from contacting a lawyer or accountant. Some con artists will
assure you that an attorney has reviewed your file and approved it.
Don't believe them. Instead, consult with a trusted, reputable,
certified estate planning professional before signing anything.
- Never respond to an offer that you
don't fully understand.
- Beware of claims that are too good to
be true. For instance, no trust will avoid all income taxes.
- Beware of getting suckered into
expensive estate planning if your assets don't really justify it.
- Be careful about attending estate
planning seminars and workshops.
Con artists like to isolate their victims
and get them alone. To avoid this tactic, bring an adult child or
trusted friend with you when discussing your financial affairs with
Not all estate planning salespersons are
dishonest. But as with all financial transactions, decisions surrounding
estate planning are highly personal and should never be made under
pressure. The best advise is to be
cautious and never act in haste. By doing this, you will avoid heartache
and financial loss.
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