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Don’t Fall for a Trust Mill, Find a Trustworthy Estate Planning Attorney
People are trustworthy, and the world is full of good, yet that doesn’t mean evil doesn’t exist. There are plenty of bad actors out there, and among the worst are those who prey on well-meaning individuals working only to protect their families. No, we don’t mean insurance hucksters (though they, too, have a special place reserved for them in you-know-where); we mean the unconscionable types who run trust mills.
Avoiding the Trust Mill Trap
A trust mill is to an honest estate planning attorney what a loan shark is to a reputable bank. While the two may offer a similar service, only one has your best interest in mind.
Trust mills use scare tactics to dupe good people into purchasing estate planning products they don’t need. They sell trusts by (ironically) abusing the trust of their clients. A recent case brought before the Ohio Supreme Court shows how this works.
In April 2022 the state of Ohio ordered two companies that preyed on thousands of senior citizens to pay $6.4 million in fines and barred them from doing business in the state. These companies, which worked in tandem, operated by mailing postcards to residents aged 65 and over warning them of the high costs of probate court. Whenever they got a reply (and sometimes even when they didn’t), they dispatched a salesperson to apply high-pressure tactics aimed at getting victims to purchase legal products they may or may not need.
Now, yes, probate can be expensive, tedious, and, in some cases, unnecessary but that’s beside the point. The issue with how these Ohio companies operated was that the salespeople sent to individuals’ homes were not estate planning attorneys and had no business hawking estate planning documents. They arrived offering an array of misleading legal services and deliberately steered victims toward purchasing a living trust regardless of whether this was in their best interest. Later, agents from the second company would show up to have the documents signed and notarized at which time an additional hard sell was made aimed at getting clients to purchase insurance and annuities. From start to finish the goal was to manipulate a vulnerable population into forking over hard-earned savings for personal profit.
Similar cases have been heard in Florida, Missouri, and elsewhere, indicating that trust mills are widespread. Indeed, in Oklahoma, the bar does not frame estate planning as a unique legal service which means the practice is even lawful, however unethical.
Protecting Your Family and Yourself
The best way of protecting your family and yourself against trust mills and other similar exploitative operations is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Companies engaged in seedy business will try to pressure you into using one of their attorneys instead of allowing you to use your own attorney to review documents. They often have you sign a “Disclosure and Compliance” form stating that you understand the agent with whom you are working is not an attorney or certified tax authority. They may also try to scare you into investing in numerous additional estate planning products.
To learn more about the estate planning documents you truly need or to simply have a trustworthy conversation about anything related to the matter, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm either by calling 417-623-2062 or using the contact form on our website.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm