Month: March 2014

Who’s in Your Corner: Your Estate Planner, Your Estate Plan and You

The Attorney General for Minnesota, Lori Swanson, has recently opened a new chapter in an ongoing battle waged by her office: specifically, taking on so-called “trust mills,” the Owatonna People’s Press reported. Swanson’s ongoing pursuit highlights the importance, for anyone considering creating an estate plan, of ensuring the partner you select to help you can provide all the service you need to achieve success in your planning.

According to the Minnesota authorities, Heritage Partners, located just outside Minneapolis, convened seminars in area restaurants, where they marketed and sold generic estate planning documents to the company’s customers (mostly seniors) as a pretext to attempt subsequently to sell them insurance products. “Trust mill” refers to a company that uses illegal tactics and nonlawyers to sell estate planning documents to its customers. The legal documents Heritage customers received were prepared by a man who was not a licensed attorney.

Swanson has, in the past, pursued several other companies for acts of fraud and deceptive trade practices related to living trusts. Here in Wisconsin, authorities have wrestled with similar concerns. A few years ago, the Wisconsin Bar asked the Supreme Court to change the rules regarding engaging in the practice of law without a license, in part as a result of the bar’s concern about companies it considered “trust mills.”

People who use the services of a fraudulent company run many risks. If Minnesota authorities are correct, Heritage’s customers received estate planning documents written by someone who potentially knew nothing about Minnesota law or estate planning law in general. This is a very dangerous prospect. Often times, the legal work needed to “fix” a poorly written plan can take more time and cost more money than creating a new plan. These problems with your plan can become even more complex, and sometimes irreparable if they are not discovered until after you die.

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