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Pennsylvania seniors targeted in estate planning scams

Pennsylvania is among the states with the largest percentage of senior citizens. Seniors are often targets of scam artists trying to defraud people. In an effort to offer more protection to some of the most vulnerable members of society, on June 18, 2013 U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania proposed legislation that would increase the penalties for those who commit investment fraud when the victims are 62 years old or older. 

A common scheme that scam artists use to try to trick seniors involves estate planning, and people should be aware of how the scheme works. 

In many cases, senior citizens receive invitations to estate planning seminars or offers for a home visit from an estate planner. The person running the fraud plays upon seniors' fears that their assets will be endlessly tied up in probate or lost to estate taxes and uses high-pressure sales techniques to get seniors to buy kits to set up living trusts or annuities. In many cases, the forms in the kit are useless because they are not specifically drafted to comply with state laws.

One of the best ways for people to avoid such scams is to make sure that they use reputable estate planning attorneys when creating estate plans. An attorney who is skilled in estate planning will discuss a variety of estate planning tools with clients to help clients figure out what best fits their situations, rather than pressing for clients to choose a particular estate planning method. Attorneys can also answer questions that arise as time passes and people need to modify their estate plans as their lives change.


Source: Pittsburg Post-Gazette, "Scams continue to be aimed at senior citizens," Gabrielle Banks, July 1, 2013

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