Beware of Trust Mills: Trusts mills are companies that sell trusts to senior citizens, without consultation by a lawyer. The motivation behind trust mills are two-fold: First, they charge a significant amount of money for un-customized documents that do a disservice to clients. Second, the companies, while building the trusts, send an affiliated financial advisor to the client to recommend they purchase a high-commission product, such as a variable annuity. In Pennsylvania, Trust Mills would market to seniors by telling them they had to avoid probate in Pennsylvania. However, probate is not a difficult process in Pennsylvania, unlike other states.
It is a serious offense in the legal community for what we call “unauthorized practice of law” — in other words, a non-lawyer purporting to be a lawyer, or a lawyer practicing illegally in a state in which he or she is not licensed.
On July 28, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the disbarment of Brett B. Weinstein, a trust mill operator. (Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Brett B. Weinstein) In it’s decision, the court stated that the trust mill in question was an “extremely egregious example of the unauthorized practice of law.” Further, the court held that “there is no other comparable case in Pennsylvania in terms of the gravity of deception, the determined persistence, and the harm to enormous numbers of vulnerable clients.”
Please beware of trust mills and other companies that do not offer legal counsel while preparing estate plans. Always ask if the individual is a licensed attorney, and seek proof of that. You can always lookup an attorney to see if they have a valid license or any disciplinary action at The Disciplinary Board website.
While we are on the subject, also beware of do-it-yourself estate planning. Similar to working with a non-attorney, you could be making a significant mistake when trying to save some money and doing it yourself.
At our law firm, we offer unlimited consultation times when we work with our clients on their wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate plans. We hope that when you decide to complete your estate plan, that you work with a law firm that devotes its practice to estate planning.