Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beware Fraudulent Estate Planners in Wisconsin

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Last week a financial planner I know contacted me because something seemed "off" with his clients.  In their mid-80s they told him they had just paid $2300 to a company to create a trust so that they would have not to go through probate.   The financial planner knew this was odd because he has heard me speak countless times; their asset profile had minimal probate items.  So he called me, and I said it sounded odd.  He encouraged his clients to call and ask for a refund.  Yes, they'd paid $2300 up front, before receiving documents.  And the man selling the trust was not  an attorney, but an insurance salesman.  Upon calling they were told that they needed a trust to avoid 4 mandatory court appearances and a 7% fee, or $35,000, for probate.  This man is telling them utter rubbish.  Beware the fraudulent trust mill!!!!

Married couples rarely need to go through probate because most items are jointly held.  Moreover, the probate fee is 0.02 percent, not 7.00 percent.  The man may have known this fact if he had gone to law school, which he had not.  Sadly, these people will probably never see their $2300 returned, and any documents that may be produced will be useless because they were not created by an attorney.

Protect yourselves and your elderly loved ones by:

  • working with an attorney, licensed in the State of Wisconsin.  Contact the State Bar of Wisconsin before paying any money;
  • make a deposit, not a full payment;
  • be cautious if invitations for a "free chicken dinner and learn how to avoid" probate -- they are usually netting techniques used by trust mills that are not attorneys;
  • work with an attorney you find through a personal referral, such as a family member or friend, your financial planner or neighbor; 
  • contact the Office of the Commissioner for Insurance if the person "selling" trusts is a licensed insurance agent; and
  • encourage your State representative to get serious on the Unauthorized Practice of Law in Wisconsin.  Let's get tough on these swindlers!

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