Scam artists are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to trick people into sending them money, or private information they then use to steal identity.
The world of estate planning is particularly rife for scams and cons.
This guide will make it easier for you to spot scam attempts and avoid them.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is basically the process of planning out who will inherit the different elements and assets you own in the event of your death or incapacitation.
The aim of the process is to ensure that your assets are shared out in the way you intend and to provide a clear plan of asset distribution, removing the need for conflict and saving your loved ones a lot of money and time, too.
Typically, an estate planning attorney or advisor will be part of the estate planning process, and this is where you need to be careful, as scammers can pose as friendly, professional advisors and trick people into paying for services or "extras" they don't really need.
Common Estate Planning Scams
Now, let's look at some of the most common tricks and techniques that scammers may use to try and confuse you into paying more than necessary or paying for things you don't need.
Living Trust Mill Scams
This type of scam involves a scammer pressuring someone into paying for a living trust, even if they don't actually need it. Typically, the scammer will try to scare the person into thinking that a living trust is necessary, confusing them with legal language and false arguments.
Self-Help Living Trust Kits
Just like estate planning templates, you can find websites selling "self-help living trust kits" that claim to help you make your own living trust with ease while avoiding legal fees. Again, these kits are often inadequate, failing to offer the right resources to users.
There are also plenty of IRS scams out there, in which people pretend to be from the IRS and call unsuspecting victims, demanding that they hand over personal information or make payments for "fees" associated with their estates.
How to Identify and Avoid an Estate Planning Scam
As you can see, there are plenty of types of estate planning scams out there, so how do you spot these schemes and steer clear of them? Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Ask Questions About the Attorney's Qualifications
Whenever someone calls you or speaks with you about estate planning, don't be afraid to ask about their background. Check up on their qualifications to make sure you're speaking with a genuine professional.
Look Up the Person Who Contacted You on the Internet
The internet is filled with scams, but it's also a valuable resource for defeating them. When someone contacts you about estate planning services, look them up online. People who have been scammed in the past often share names and aliases of the people or companies who tricked them.
If It's Too Good to be True, It's Probably a Scam
This is a simple rule for life: if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If it feels like you're getting a great deal or accessing some big money-saving secret that nobody else knows about, you should definitely feel suspicious.
Purchase Additional Products Carefully
Sometimes, estate planning attorneys will try to sell you extra products. Some of these products may have value and importance, but others might be completely useless. Take care and learn more about products before buying anything.
Consult with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you have any fears or worries or doubts about the estate planning process, the best thing to do is speak with an experienced, expert attorney. Licensed estate planning attorneys will be able to answer your questions and help you through the process with no tricks.
Don't Sign Documents You Do Not Fully Understand
Never sign something if you aren't fully aware of all that it entails. Scammers may try to trick you with legal jargon and long contracts that have secret clauses and hidden tricks inside. Always read things thoroughly before agreeing to them.
Be Cautious of Paying Excessive Legal Fees
Some attorneys may charge you unreasonably high fees for their services, or they might even try to charge your heirs these fees after you pass on. Be cautious and get a clear outline of any and all fees to be paid, and get it in writing, too.
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Wills & Trusts, Estate Planning | 22 March, 2023
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