Talking to your parents about their estate and end-of-life wishes isn't easy or pleasant, but…
In this guide, we’re exploring some common estate planning scams targeting elderly people. Estate planning is a hot topic when people reach a certain age, and this can be a way for scammers and con artists to try and gain someone’s trust and take advantage.
Why Are The Elderly Frequently The Targets of Scams?
Adults over the age of 50 are the most common victims of estate planning scams, especially those who have no close relatives. Financial fraud victims over the age of 50 are estimated to lose an average of $34,200 to opportunistic con artists, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. People in this group may be particularly vulnerable to certain frauds for a number of reasons, including:
- Adults over the age of 50 are more likely to have significant assets and higher net worth.
- Many people in this age group are unfamiliar with the estate planning process, making them easy prey for scammers.
- Many older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation, leading to poor decision-making and making the elderly vulnerable to dangerous situations.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is making a plan for what will happen to your belongings, including your property when you die. This way, you can distribute your assets using an estate planning attorney to ensure you don’t pay more taxes than you have to and that your family gets access to your belongings as you had hoped and intended.
Common Estate Planning Scams
Let’s look at some common scams that can occur in the estate planning area and the ways in which con artists are looking to catch the elderly out.
Living Trust Mill Scams
Some scams called living trust mills became very popular in recent years. Fraudsters created events offering free meals, and they’d give presentations in which they used aggressive sales tactics and scare tactics to try and force them to make a living trust.
The con artists would then usually make those at the event pay large sums of money to them to submit forms relating to a living trust. Living trusts themselves are real and may help, but you need the help of an attorney.
Cold Calls Offering to Prepare Estate Plans
If you receive a call offering to prepare your estate plan, be wary. There are many scams that don’t do what is best for your money or try to dupe elderly people into making bad financial decisions.
IRS scams come in many different forms. Individuals may impersonate members of government to try and get you to pay something related to your estate, or intimidate elderly people into paying fees they aren’t actually liable for. They may also target your private information.
Fake Charities Asking For a Charitable Bequest
This is when a sob story is sold to an elderly person to try and get a charitable bequest for once they have passed away, and some of the people scamming in this way can be forceful or even use scare tactics.
Fake Insurance Scams
Someone offering you a fake life insurance policy is an example of this, claiming that there will be a huge payout when you pass away. Usually, they will not call from a legitimate company and the policy may be completely bogus. Never work with a company you can’t verify.
How to identify and prevent an estate planning scam
There are some methods you can use to try and identify an estate planning scam and to spot when someone is trying to catch you out.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information Over The Phone
You shouldn’t be asked for private personal information over the phone. If a supposed government employee or other professional is asking for this it is a red flag. Never give private information out over the phone.
Ask About Qualifications
Feel free to ask those who are trying to sell to you where they are from, what ID they have, and their qualifications.
Don’t Sign Documents You Do Not Fully Understand
Never sign a document that you haven’t read and understood. Always read things thoroughly before agreeing to them.
You should always be comfortable refusing to sign a document and getting an attorney you trust to talk you through it.
If You Are Pressured to Take Action, it’s Probably a Scam
Pressure selling is one of the telltale signs of a scam. If someone is putting short timescales on a decision or trying to pressure you into saying yes to their offer then it is probable that they don’t have your best interests at heart.
Be cautious of Paying Exorbitant Legal Fees
If the legal fees are huge and seem disproportionate then make sure you check before paying them, and get legal advice on the sort of costs involved in estate planning.
Watch Out For Deals That Are Too Good to be True
It is one of the oldest sayings when it comes to scams, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t get suckered in by an offering that is unrealistic, or promises to save or make you huge sums of money. Always check the legitimacy of the company in question.