Legitimate estate planning is something that everyone can use as a vehicle both to grow their wealth and to protect it for their heirs once they are gone.
However, scam artists frequently feed on the fears of elderly people, who worry both about running out of money to live on and about leaving something behind for their children once they are gone.
One popular scam involves people pretending to be "estate professionals," where scammers pass themselves off as quasi-legal professionals who can help with estate planning. Scammers will sometimes promote living trusts in order to gain access to the broadest amount of personal information about the targeted elder as possible.
They then sell them phony estate plans or fantastic-sounding insurance policies that are, in reality, valueless. They may also use the financial and personal information that they've gleaned to steal from the elder's accounts and the accounts of some of their heirs if they manage to gain enough information about those heirs to do so.
In reality, living trusts, when they're done properly by an actual attorney, can help heirs receive more of the full value of their inheritance by avoiding the costly (and lengthy) process of probate.
Living trusts avoid probate because the trustee is able to transfer ownership of the property and assets in the trust directly to the designated beneficiary after the elder's death. It can usually be done without additional attorney fees or taxes as well.
Trusts are also private, unlike wills and probate proceedings, which appeal to a lot of people who don't want their heirs to know exactly who was left what percentage of an estate or other sensitive information. The best way to protect someone you love who is getting older from a scam artist pretending to handle estate documents is to have a frank discussion with them about the realities of aging and dying.
Talk to them about setting up a living trust now, so that they don't have to worry about someone defrauding them or getting their financial information at a later date. The relative privacy that a trust affords them, even after death, may also be appealing. At Larmore Scarlett, LLP, we help people with their estate planning needs, including trust planning,