One of my parents recently gave me a mailer and shared a story that served as reminder of some of the shady “estate planning” characters out there.  The mailer warns the recipient of how probate courts deplete their estate.  It goes on to talk about revocable living trusts and how they can save “thousands in court fees, invetory costs and attorney fees.”  It then offers to provide a free book on protecting your estate if you return the mailer.

None of those statements are lies, so why do I consider it shady?  First, there is no street address or business name provided anywhere on the mailer.  What are they trying to hide?  Second, although not explicitly stated in the mailer, it is drafted in a way that leads the reader to believe that (1) revocable living trusts are a new tool for handling a person’s estate and (2) you need one.  Revocable living trusts are not a “new” estate planning tool and, althought they are beneficial for many situations, they are not needed by everyone.  Depending on the estate size, the burdens of administration could outweigh the benefits of having the trust – there are alternative planning methods in those cases.

This is why I always recommend talking to an attorney who is knowledgable in the different estate planning techniques (whether me or someone else).  Through information gathering and conversation, they will be able to determine what estate planning methods will be best for the given invidual.

Side note – the story: my father has a friend who sent in a mailer much like the one given to me (although not identical).  The book was delivered by 2 salespeople who wanted to sell their investments to the person.  Yikes!