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Avoiding Living Trust Scams

Definition of a Living Trust

According to the state of Pennsylvania, a "living trust" is a legal entity to which your assets can be transferred and managed by a person, including yourself, or a corporation (such as a bank), known as a "trustee". The trustee manages your assets in accordance with written instructions contained in a trust document, and these living trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. Living trusts are nothing new, and have actually existed for centuries.

Traditionally, living trusts have been used for the management of assets of those who need such services, and today revocable living trusts are heavily marketed as substitutes for wills. There have been many exaggerated stories of costs and delays in the administration of estates under wills in order to convince people to invest in a living trust, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General has imposed fines and other sanctions on certain vendors of living trusts for this type of unlawful advertising.

Living trusts have been strongly advertised but are not beneficial for everyone. There are some distinct disadvantages to a living trust. For example, beneficiaries will have no automatic legal right to the notices required for estates if assets are distributed through a living trust instead of your estate after death. The trustees of living trusts will also have no authority beyond assets placed in the trust, as compared to the personal representatives of estates who are granted broad legal authority to wrap a decedent's affairs.

Tips for Avoiding Scams

One of the main tactics used to convince people to purchase pricey and unnecessary living trust packages is a high-pressure sales technique. If you feel pressured by solicitations by mail or in person, you should be skeptical about the motives of the firm or company behind those solicitations. Keep in mind that your financial situation and estate planning needs are unique and should be given the appropriate time, attention and expertise that they deserve. Here at Temple & Frayer Law, we know that only a properly trained and experienced attorney can provide you with the in-depth, personalized legal counsel that you need during the estate planning process.

In order to avoid a living trust scam, you should research what estate planning tools are right for you, and never sign or agree to anything that you do not fully understand. Before you agree to let someone prepare a living trust for you, make sure you research and verify their qualifications and legal experience. You should always be wary of cookie-cutter trusts or living trusts that are pre-drafted. The right attorney for you is the one who will customize your living will to meet your needs. If you don't understand something, always ask questions and do not agree to anything if the answers you receive are vague or confusing. These are all common tactics used to convince innocent individuals and families of spending their money on living trusts that won't necessarily meet all of their needs.

If you have any questions about whether or not you need a living trust as part of your estate planning process, please call a Pittsburgh estate planning attorney at Temple & Frayer Law for a consultation!

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.