Do you receive invitations in your mail to attend meetings at fancy restaurants in your area? I get them all the time. So are they really free? You might be surprised to read that for the most part they really are free and you usually get a pretty darn good meal. What’s the catch? Well, you are prospects for the people putting on the meal and they will be asking you to sign up for an appointment to meet with them later or they will be calling you later to set up an appointment. Obviously, they will want to sell you their goods or services.
So what kinds of goods or services are being sold? Well some of them are financial services. Some of them are forms of insurance or investment. And some are estate planning services.
Are these people trying to cheat you? Based on my experience the answer is generally “no.” But the services you receive may or may not be complete. Or they may or may not be appropriate for your particular situation.
The situations I want to address are those individuals trying to sell you a complex estate plan that includes a living trust. Again, I’m speaking from my experience in seeing adult children bringing me their parents’ living trust binders obtained at one of these seminars. Their parents paid several thousand dollars for a very nice binder and what is frequently an excellent living trust (and related documents).
The problem I see is two fold. First, the trust is either entirely inappropriate for the couple in question or it is far too complex for their situation. Second, the couple has/had no idea what the trust really did for them or how to properly use the trust. As a consequence, the majority of trusts of this type brought to me have nothing in them. The money paid for the trust was totally wasted.
But even more troublesome is when the trust actually had some or all of the couple’s assets in it. What should have been set up as a simple transfer at death has become a complex mess of numerous trusts that the family neither needs, wants or understands.
So should all of these dinners be avoided? Not necessarily. If you can say “no” or ask a lot of questions, you might get a good education. But be clear and understand exactly what it is you are going to get and why you need it. If you are unsure, call my office for a consultation or ask a friend for a referral to their estate planning attorney and get a second opinion.
Sometimes a living trust is appropriate. Sometimes a complex living trust is very appropriate. But too often those who are sold these products are sold them because they are too meek to ask the right questions or too gullible to believe the seller could not have their best interests at heart.
The best advice is to educate yourself before you attend the dinner. Bon appétit.