McKenna Reminds Seniors to Make Informed Estate Planning Decisions
SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced an agreement with Understanding Seniors Financial and its owners. The agreement ends an investigation into whether the company unlawfully provided legal advice to senior citizens and made misleading statements in order to sell estate planning products.
Under the terms of the agreement filed in Thurston County Superior Court, Understanding Seniors Financial Inc., Calvin Todd Halterman and Shawn Webb did not admit any wrong-doing but agreed to provide refunds to consumers who bought a living trust or “trust review” without advice from a licensed attorney. The company also paid the state $9,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
“The Attorney General’s Office investigated allegations that sales representatives for Understanding Seniors Financial made false statements about living trusts and tax laws in order to scare seniors into purchasing estate planning products,” McKenna said. “The state also was concerned that sales representatives provided legal advice without a license to practice law.”
The Attorney General’s Office closed its investigation based on the company’s agreement to resolve concerns.
Understanding Seniors Financial is registered in Kennewick. The company advertised free lunches and informational seminars at restaurants throughout the state. Sales representatives then scheduled in-home visits with seniors who attended the presentations.
The agreement prevents Understanding Seniors Financial from allowing non-attorney salespersons to provide consumers with legal advice regarding probate or estate planning, particularly living trusts. It also prevents the business from making misrepresentations to consumers about the costs and legal consequences of living trusts and probate.
Consumers who purchased a living trust or other estate planning products from Understanding Seniors Financial without the advice of an attorney will be notified by letter of their right to a refund. Consumers with questions should contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-551-4636.
“Consumers should always seek independent advice from a qualified attorney when making decisions about estate planning,” McKenna said. “Senior citizens, especially, need to be wary about high-pressure pitches to purchase living trusts, other insurance products, or investments that may not be appropriate for their situation.”
“Senior citizens should also be wary of inviting salespeople into their home for estate planning appointments, which may actually be a tactic to obtain personal information about their assets,” he said. “Established estate planning professionals do not conduct their business door-to-door.”
A living trust allows a person to control distribution of his or her estate by transferring ownership of property and assets into a trust. The person can either serve as the trustee and name a successor to distribute assets after his or her death, or select another person or an institution as trustee while he or she is alive. More information about living trusts is available online from the Attorney General’s Office atwww.atg.wa.govand the Federal Trade Commission atwww.ftc.gov.
Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432,firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Kringle, Assistant Attorney General, (206) 389-2514,email@example.com
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