The Ohio Supreme Court has recently taken strong action against two co-owners in a company participating in an illegal “trust mill” operation. According to this article from the Associated Press, the two owners, Jeffrey and Stanley Norman, have been permanently barred from marketing or selling their trust products in Ohio after they were found to have committed “more than 3,800 acts of unauthorized law practice.”
Unfortunately, Jeffrey and Stanley Norman are not the first unscrupulous characters to try to pull one over on the general public. Trust mills exist in every state, and although seniors are often the main targets, anyone can fall victim if they aren’t careful. These trust mills may offer inexpensive documents, but the cheap product is exactly that—cheap. At best these cheap documents are nothing but generic forms with your name slipped in; they often do nothing to reflect your family’s special needs or desires. At worst the documents delivered by Trust Mills won’t even adhere to the laws of your state.
So be wary of any will or trust that is offered at a price too good to be true. Be wary of anybody who tries to sell you a trust or estate plan at a “great price” and at the same time tries to sell you other “related” products such as life insurance or annuities. Be wary of anybody who will come to your home or meet you at a restaurant, but has no local office or local phone number. And be wary of anybody who will have you fill out a form and sell you a trust online. And, be wary of a Non-Attorneys who offer such products. Only an attorney is authorized and licensed to create trusts,
A good trust should be drafted by an experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning and who practices (and usually lives) in your state of residence, and preferably in your geographic area. A good trust is drafted after that attorney has personally met with you, interviewed you, and given you a chance to ask questions as well.
Don’t fall victim to con artists like Jeffrey and Stanley Norman. Be wary, be aware, and be willing to pay for an estate plan that will legally protect your assets and your family.