OLYMPIA – Two of Attorney General Rob McKenna’s requested bills were approved by the Legislature after unanimous votes today and will be delivered to Governor Chris Gregoire for signing. The bills help protect seniors from trust mill scams and create a new tool to punish abusers who strangle their victims.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1114 helps protect seniors from trust mill scams by making it illegal for anyone other than an attorney or a professional employed by an attorney to market legal estate distribution documents such as living trusts and wills. A revocable living trust – not to be confused with a living will – allows a person to control distribution of his or her estate by transferring ownership of property and assets into a trust.
“The Attorney General’s Office has seen an increase in unscrupulous salespeople aggressively promoting living trusts to elderly adults who don’t need them,” McKenna said. “They exploit seniors’ fears that their estates could be eaten up by probate costs or distribution of their assets could be delayed for years. They also use financial information to push the sale of reverse mortgages and high-commission annuities that often aren’t in consumers’ best interests.
“This bill will help protect seniors by ensuring that only legal professionals can market living trusts or other estate distribution documents. Attorneys who sell inappropriate living trusts will be accountable through bar sanctions,” McKenna said.
Senate Bill 5953 allows felony charges of assault in the second degree to be brought against domestic violence abusers and others who strangle their victims.
“Strangulation is a cruel crime that terrifies victims,” McKenna said. “Under this law, abusers who choke their victims will receive serious punishment. The stiffer penalties will hopefully also deter domestic violence.”
Assault by strangulation will be categorized as a second-degree assault, which is a class B felony, punishable by a maximum period of 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000. The standard sentencing range for a first-time offender convicted of second-degree assault is 3-9 months in jail.
Under current state law, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that strangulation resulted in “substantial bodily harm” in order to convict an offender of felony second-degree assault. As a result, the most common domestic violence charge is simple assault, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of $5,000.
McKenna thanked Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, the primary sponsor of the ESBH 1114, and Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, who sponsored a companion bill in the Senate for their work in passing a living trust bill.
He also thanked Senators Tracey J. Eide (D-Federal) and Val Stevens (R-Arlington), and Representatives John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) and Skip Priest (R-Federal Way) for their support of a strangulation bill this session.
ESHB 1114 and Senate Bill 5953 were approved by unanimous votes in both sides of the Legislature.
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