A living trust can be a powerful estate planning tool – it not only allows you to control and set parameters on the distribution of your property after you die, but it offers a mechanism to manage your property in the event of incapacitation. Because of their popularity, particularly when it comes to allowing property to avoid probate, there have been some unscrupulous sales tactics over the past decade. One of these tactics we call a “trust mill.”
The trust mill scam is a nationwide problem that has cost many senior citizens, not only financially, but with their peace of mind. Trust mills are not legitimate law firms. Some may have attorneys on staff, in order to say that they are not illegally practicing law; however, providing legitimate legal services is not the trust mill’s true objective. Rather, the trust mill offers one product, a living trust, in order to try to sell something else altogether – financial services.
Trust mills entice people by advertising “living trust” packages at “low costs” – far less than what legitimate legal services cost. They operate online, or go from town to town, most often targeting senior citizens. The trusts provided are basically just a fill-in-the blanks form, and should not be confused with legitimate, professional, personalized legal services. These trusts may not even be drafted by a licensed attorney. Some salesmen will use phony titles, such as “certified trust advisor,” to make themselves appear legitimate and knowledgeable.
Once the trust mill has a senior citizen’s trust and financial information, they then try to sell financial products such as annuities, life insurance, and reverse mortgages. The sales tactics used are unscrupulous and predatory, to say the least. The salesman’s ulterior motive is often a substantial sales commission for other financial products, and not just the fee for the living trust.
Avoid these trust mills, both in person and online. Make sure you contact a dedicated estate planning attorney who can work with you to meet your specific needs.