An Estate Plan should protect your interests, assets, and loved ones. What it shouldn't do is cause harm or distress. Unfortunately, there are people and unscrupulous companies out there that prey on vulnerable people who don't know any better.
Estate Planning scams are far more common than you might think. Estate Planning is more accessible now than ever before, with many companies advertising services to help people make a Will or Estate Plan online. With an increase in options to choose from, fraudulent companies can attempt to blend in, posing as reputable sources to scam unsuspecting folks.
Trust & Will is here to help you identify some red flags so you will be better able to steer clear of Estate Planning scams:
Common Estate Planning Scams
There is never a shortage of sly tricksters coming up with new ways to get your personal information from you. But there are common Estate Planning scams that have been around for years and show no signs of going anywhere. Here are some of the most common Estate Planning scams to beware of:
Telemarketers sell everything from credit cards to timeshares, and yes, even Estate Plans. It isn't unusual to give telemarketers personal information over the phone. So when someone gives you a call and says they have a great deal on an Estate Plan, someone who doesn't know any better may not bat an eye at handing over their financial information to a scam artist.
If you receive a cold call from someone claiming to want to help you create a Will or Trust in exchange for you wiring money to a bank account, proceed skeptically. There's a good chance you won't see the Estate Planning documents you think you've paid for.
Estate Planning "Templates"
You may be a person who routinely takes the DIY route, no matter the task. After all, can't you learn how to do just about anything with a simple Google or YouTube search? But when you take a DIY approach to Estate Planning, you could run into some trouble.
When you download Estate Planning templates, you may think you're receiving all the paperwork you need to complete your Estate Plan and make it legally binding. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
When you see a company offering pre-made templates up for sale, the attractive price and perceived ease of use can be very tempting. But these templates are rarely one size fits all. Estate Planning documents have specific requirements depending on the state in which you live. When you purchase pre-made templates, they are often not state-specific and, if not signed and notarized correctly, could be disregarded by Probate Court, rendering your Estate Plan null and void.
When you begin to research what you will need to create your Estate Plan, you will see many tips from financial advisers about hiring a reputable Estate Planning attorney. However, it can be difficult to know how to make sure an attorney has your best interests in mind.
Only a licensed, experienced Estate Planning attorney is qualified to prepare your Estate Planning documents for you and guide you through the process. When choosing an attorney, you should check your state's Bar to make sure that they are licensed to practice law in your state.
A reputable attorney will not pressure you into handing money over to them immediately. You shouldn't feel forced to decide whether or not to hire them on the spot, and an actual licensed attorney will not try to sell you a pre-made template. The right Estate Planning attorney will be happy to take their time having an in-depth conversation with you about your unique needs, answering any questions you might have.
Increased Legal Fees
An Estate Plan isn't free, but it shouldn't put you into debt, either. Having an Estate Plan will minimize the cost and fees associated with settling your Estate after death, making it well worth the money now. But before you get started, you should know what to expect to pay. Otherwise, you could run into a bad faith attorney charging an exorbitant amount of money to draw up your Estate Plan. Trust & Will, for instance, offers customized, state-specific Wills starting at $159 and Trust-Based Estate Plans for $599 per individual, or $699 for couples.
A comprehensive Estate Plan should save Beneficiaries added costs that can add up through Probate. For this reason, Heirs should beware of attorneys increasing legal fees before finally closing the Estate. They could be trying to take advantage of you and your family at one of your most vulnerable times.
Who's at Risk?
While adults of all ages can create an Estate Plan, scam artists typically target those over 50 and the elderly with Estate Planning scams. One reason for this is because older adults have simply had time to accumulate more wealth and assets. Another reason, of course, is that the elderly can make for easier prey.
The FBI estimates that the elderly lose $3 billion every year to scams. By heeding these warnings, you can ensure that you or your senior loved ones are not one of them. And, if you suspect that scammers have targeted your family, you can report fraud to the Department of Justice.
Reputable Estate Planning with Trust & Will
Now that you know what common Estate Planning scams to avoid, you can focus on how to create a comprehensive Estate Plan with a reputable company.
Trust & Will is the leading voice in online Estate Planning. Their knowledgeable attorneys build fully customized Estate Planning documents based on your own answers to a series of simple questions. This process ensures that you have a perfect, customized Estate Plan that meets you and your family's unique needs. Most importantly, all of the paperwork you receive from Trust & Will is state-specific and legally binding.
Get started on your Estate Plan today!