Don’t Trust the “Trust Mills”

You’re an educated person. You have a degree, you’ve held a job, had responsibilities and a family. You’ve always done the smart thing and made what you hope are the right decisions, and you’d like to continue doing the smart thing. So when an “expert” hands you a flyer and tells you that for a few hundred or a couple thousand dollars they can create an entire estate plan to save your family tens of thousands of dollars, of course you will consider it. After all, you’ve heard about living trusts and how beneficial they are. Even this blog, over and over again, has touted the wisdom of creating a trust, especially in California.

The problem is that not all trusts are created equal. And unfortunately, not all “experts” are created equal either.

The California Office of the Attorney General warns on its website about the recent onslaught of fraudulent annuity scams and “trust mills.”  A “trust mill” is basically non-attorneys doing your estate plan. These are people who pass themselves off as “legal experts,” but who often have no legal training at all, let alone a law degree. They use fear tactics and misleading information to scare people (most often the elderly) into creating unsound trusts and estate planning documents. 

Living Trusts are a useful tool, and can provide most families with a valuable layer of protection—when created correctly, by an attorney with a background in estate planning law, who has met with you and is familiar with your unique situation. Trusts created by trust mills are often boilerplate packages that may not even comply with your state law or with the needs of your family.

You wouldn’t go into surgery without being sure of the qualifications of your doctor, why would you be any less cautious with planning your incapacity or protecting the nest egg that you have spent a lifetime to accumulate? Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.