When you’ve decided that you are ready to start estate planning, it is important to choose carefully. You need someone to listen to your circumstances, needs and goals, to provide you with clear, understandable advice about how best to achieve your objectives, and then to provide you with the legal documents needed to meet your goals and distribute your property according to your wishes.
Amidst the countless New Jersey estate planning attorneys providing that kind of effective legal representation every day, there is also a significant risk to citizens – particularly seniors – from less scrupulous people. A case that came before the Appellate Division court (Case No. A-4675-16T3), and was earlier reported upon by nj.com, laid out a scenario that is common. It started with a representative of an “estate planning” entity coming to the senior’s home. This “estate planner” was a salesperson who persuaded the senior to sign up for estate planning services, which consisted of a living trust and certain other legal documents.
The saleswoman in the case completed an information form and transmitted it to an attorney. The attorney conducted a brief (eight minute) consultation by telephone and then drafted the trust and other documents. After that, the saleswoman returned to the home with the client’s legal documents in order to notarize them. While she was there, though, she also invested several hundred thousand dollars of the client’s money in two annuities that she was authorized to sell. The $222,000 sum represented nearly half of all of the client’s assets outside the value of her home.
This situation is far from unique. Frequently, if an attorney is involved at all, he/she is involved only on a minuscule level. The ultimate goal often is for the salesperson to return to the home and, while notarizing the trust and other legal documents, persuade the client to move most or all of her assets into certain insurance or financial products that often generate very large commissions for the salesperson and his/her supervisors.
Living trusts are not the problem; misusing them is
It is important to recognize what this does and does not mean. You may see certain websites that seem to say that living trusts are bad or are not useful. This isn’t true. Living trusts are wonderful legal tools that have the potential, when properly used, to benefit a lot of New Jerseyans very substantially.
The problem isn’t the tool; the problem is one of having the wrong tool to do a particular job. If someone sells you channel lock pliers to turn a screw, was the problem the tool or the bad advice you got from someone who gets paid specifically to sell channel lock pliers?
Additionally, not everyone traveling to a senior’s home who discusses planning needs is a “scammer.” There are highly ethical salespeople in the insurance and financial services industries who provide valuable services to their clients, and may also help their clients when it comes to getting in touch with a capable New Jersey attorney who can help the client with estate planning. Regrettably, some people, though, are more focused on getting paid than anything else.
When it’s time for estate planning, what you need is someone who is a client-focused and experienced legal professional who is devoted to taking the unique facts of your situation and giving you the personalized plan you need. What you leave behind for your loved ones is important enough that it deserves a team of professionals whose sole focus is meeting your legal needs. Reach out to Hoboken estate planning attorney Frank Marciano and the team at the Law Office of Frank Marciano to get exactly that kind of effective and reliable service in accomplishing your estate planning goals. To set up a consultation, contact the office online or call 201.656.1000.