It seems like it would be a difficult scam to successfully pull off; however, the number of estate planning scams are growing and the ease in which some are doing this is startling. The most vulnerable in our society – children and the elderly – are always targets, but the ones passing off as legitimate estate planning experts have many in law enforcement looking for better ways to protect older Americans.
Estate Planning Scams
Most of us equate Bernie Madoff with Ponzi schemes. But did you know that many of his victims were elderly Americans, already in retirement? His crimes were disgustingly horrific, but there is a newer crime that brings that disgust to new levels. Many retired seniors across the country have received phone calls from their “grandchildren” who are upset and in desperate need of money.
They tell “Grandma” that they need to get home but that they’ve been detained in another country. Because it sounds legitimate and because it’s a safe bet for scammers in picking their victims, the worried grandmother immediately agrees to wire their little darlings hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. They don’t stop to check with their own adult kids because of the frantic state the grandchild was in when she called. Of course, it’s too late once the funds have been wired. If the criminals feel as though they have time to “work” their victims, they encourage the senior to withdraw larger amounts of money, which can significantly affect their already -tight budgets.
Of course, there still exists the “tried and true” scams of shoddy salespeople piling on insurance or promising to update estate planning documents for exorbitant fees. The documents that have been updated are worthless as are the new insurance policies. The real danger in these scams is the ease in which criminals can get social security numbers, bank account numbers (to set up withdrawals for the “insurance policy” that doesn’t exist) and a host of other information that makes identity theft incredibly easy. Victims said they were so convinced in what the scammers told them, they come to believe their current estate planning lawyers had dropped the ball.
Long Term Effects on Family
Any of these estate planning scams are worrisome and frightening not only for the senior, but for their families as well. It can lead many to wonder who they can trust when it comes to their estate planning efforts. With that in mind, here are a few things to remember as you go about the business of finding an experienced and ethical estate planning lawyer.
The first thing that consumers should understand is that the do-it-yourself wills and other estate planning documents will leave a loved one vulnerable. They may believe they have the proper legal protections in place, but there are a number of concerns with these websites. First, you don’t know who you’re giving your information to. Next, there’s often confusion over who will file the documents after they’ve been prepared and also, it’s difficult for consumers to know if what they have falls within both federal and state compliance guidelines.
Remember, state laws vary greatly. Your best bet is to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney, one who understands the intricacies of various tax laws and other state laws that could pose problems if not addressed properly. The peace of mind alone is priceless, but the benefits of a well-prepared plan helps ensure loved ones aren’t left with huge tax burdens or other legal costs.
To learn more about these estate planning scams and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, contact our offices today.
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