As Camden County Surrogate, I have constantly been made aware of efforts by various entities that send postcards, invitations or other forms of mailings to our senior population contacting them with the theme: “Avoid probate and estate taxes.”
Some of these entities are local, but many mailings come from other parts of the country such as Indiana, Colorado and Texas. These companies want you to forward personal information, i.e., date of birth, e-mail address, spouse information or they invite you to a free breakfast, lunch or simply a free seminar.
Last year the Camden County Prosecutor and I held a press conference at a senior citizens meeting to explain that these invitations and mailings are worse than simply misleading – they are downright wrong. The goal seems to be to get personal information and convince people that having a Last Will and Testament is going to cost time and money to probate.
In New Jersey, probating a properly drawn will is not time consuming, it takes about 40 minutes in the Surrogate’s Court and costs on average $125.00. People leave with the proper documents and knowledge of how to proceed as executor.
Most frequently the entities contacting our seniors want to sell them a “Living Trust”, a document most people do not need. The calls I receive regarding this matter are numerous. Living Trusts do not save any tax liabilities and the fees charged by these companies far exceed those of an attorney. Some people have parted with as much as $3,000 to create a Living Trust.
All these cards and invitations received by our seniors should come with a warning – “We want your money”. They are not the companies one should go to for estate planning. They are not in business to save our seniors anything; they are only in business to sell their products.
I have distributed over 30,000 pamphlets that clearly explain these conflicts. All anyone needs to do is call my office (856) 225-7282 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.
Here in Camden County, free wills are part of the Senior Legal Workshops sponsored by the Freeholder Board and are held each week for people 60 years of age and over or the disabled. If you do not have a will or need to update one, please call 856-566-2920 and make an appointment.
A will is an important legal document and can truly save time and money when properly done and be a lasting gift to your family.