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No "free lunch" when it comes to estate planning

Proper estate planning is an important consideration for many Michigan residents, but it is a subject rife with misinformation that some unscrupulous businesses attempt to exploit. For example, some businesses promote "free lunch" seminars that claim to offer attendees educational information about estate planning over a free meal, but these seminars are often high-pressure sales pitches in disguise. By stoking an attendee's fear of losing their life savings to taxes or court battles, sales agents attempt to sell estate-planning products, such as one-size-fits-all living trusts, that may or may not be suited to an attendee's individual needs.

A revocable living trust takes ownership of a person's assets while they are still living with the purpose of distributing the property after their death. The living trust is overseen by a trustee who may be the person who created the trust or another party. Such arrangements are legitimate estate planning tools that can be helpful to some people, but, contrary to the advice given at some seminars, they are not helpful to everyone. Each individual's estate-planning needs are different.

Michigan residents who wish to attend free lunch seminars should keep in mind that the information they receive may not be unbiased. They should not accept the word of a salesperson at one of these events, even if they claim to be an expert. Attendees should be especially wary of products that are promoted as "one-size-fits-all" in an area as complex as estate planning, and they should never be pressured into signing legal documents or buying estate planning products.

Anyone who desires to make estate planning arrangements or create a living trust may want to contact an attorney to discuss their individual options. If someone has already purchased a living trust from a salesperson, they may wish to have it reviewed by a lawyer.

Source: State of Michigan Attorney General, "Beware of "One Size Fits All" Estate Plans & "Free Lunch Seminars"", October 21, 2014

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