Avoiding Probate and Estate Planning Pitfalls & Misdeeds in Arizona

You hear it in the news all too frequently; another senior citizen is at the receiving end of a scam and loses his or her hard-earned lifesavings. Unfortunately, it has happened again and, this time, an Arizona man is behind elder fraud claims.
The recent scam came to light early in February when the Minnesota Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit alleged consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices against a company operating in that state. Heritage Partners hosts seminars to discuss estate, living trust and probate topics, selling hundreds of attendees estate planning packages, each costing in excess of $2,000.
Unfortunately, the Arizona man who allegedly prepares the legal documents – and operates under the name Legal-Ease – is not licensed and the documents are full of mistakes. Incidentally, the federal government successfully sued Legal-Ease nearly a decade ago for similar illegal acts. The current lawsuit estimates that nearly $1 million has been bilked from unsuspecting elders in this recent fraud.

Mistakes and misbehavior

Unscrupulous companies are not the only ones who cause financial harm to seniors and their families. Whether due to distance from loved ones, reduced mental capacity from dementia or other illness, misguided trust or confusion, certain elders make mistakes or are taken advantage of in a variety of ways.
  • Executors: In Arizona, an executor is appointed – typically in your will or trust – to distribute your assets to your family after you are gone. While that individual is obligated to distribute the estate fairly, not all of them do. In the event of suspected fraud or unfair dealings, a wronged heir can demand an accounting, seek removal of the executor or sue for damages. The best tactic, however, is to designate someone who is reliable and trustworthy when you prepare your estate plan. (The problem is that the misbehaving executor or trustee has access to all the money and can easily hire a lawyer to defend himself or herself. However, the wronged heir has to pony up his or her own money to hire a lawyer to bring a claim against the executor.)
  • Caretakers: Seniors who retire to Arizona, leaving family many states away, may find themselves in need of caretakers. Personal attendants may find themselves tempted to take advantage of their charges. While many assistants and caretakers may appear perfect for the job, be sure to check references and allow family members to screen the person you ultimately hire. Also, be sure to talk to an attorney about how to ensure that a family member is notified if the senior changes his or her estate plan.
  • Jointly held assets: Arizona individuals may make mistakes when they prepare – or fail to prepare – their estate planning documents. With the frequency of divorce and remarriage – even among those over the age of 80 – joint propertypreviously held with a spouse may end up in the hands of stepchildren or other, unintended heirs.

A lawyer can help

If you need to set up an estate plan, have questions regarding your estate plan or have concerns that you or a loved one are a victim of fraud, consult an experienced Arizona lawyer. An attorney knowledgeable about estate planning, probate and elder law issues can help.
Contact Deloughery Law at:  www.delougherylaw.com