Sure Living Trust Offers Are Trust-Worthy
worked hard for your money, so it's no wonder that you'll want some control over what
happens to your assets in the event of your death. At the very least, you probably want to
minimize or avoid potential hassles and headaches for your loved ones.
Many consumers turn to experts in estate planning for help in directing what happens to
their assets after they die. There are several strategies consumers can choose from to
make sure that their assets are distributed as they wish and in a timely way.
Unfortunately, there also are scam artists who prey upon misinformation and
misunderstanding about estate taxes and the length or complexity of probate.
Some unscrupulous businesses advertise seminars on living trusts or send postcards
inviting consumers to call for in-home appointments to learn whether a living trust is
right for them. Others sell living trust "kits" they never deliver, and still
others use estate planning services to gain access to consumers' financial information and
to sell them other financial products.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency that works to prevent fraud,
deception and unfair business practices in the marketplace, advises consumers to proceed
with caution. Before you sign any papers to create a will, a living trust, or any other
kind of trust, the FTC suggests that you:
- Explore all the options with an experienced and licensed estate planning attorney or
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and high-speed sales pitches by anyone who is selling
estate planning tools or arrangements.
- Avoid salespeople who give the impression that AARP is selling or endorsing their
products. AARP does not endorse any living trust product.
- Do your homework. Get information about your local probate laws from the Clerk (or
Register) of Wills.
- Make sure your living trust is properly funded - that is, that the property has been
transferred from your name to the trust.
- Ask if the seller of a living trust is an attorney. Some states limit the sale of living
trust services to attorneys.
- Remember the Cooling Off Rule. If you buy a product or service in your home or somewhere
other than the seller's permanent place of business (say, at a hotel seminar), the seller
must give you a written statement of your right to cancel the deal within three business
- Check out any organization that wants your business with the Better Business Bureau in
your state or the state where the organization is located before you send any money for
any product or service. This is a prudent step, but not altogether foolproof: there may be
no record of complaints if an organization is too new or has changed its name.
For more information about living trusts and estate planning, including a list of the
"terms of art" and their definitions, consumers can call the FTC toll-free,
1-877-FTC-HELP, and ask for the publication, Living
Trust Offers: How to Make Sure They're Trust-worthy.
Where to Complain
The FTC works for the consumer to
prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the
marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and
avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free information
on consumer issues, visit
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a
secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER