Could Your Will Put You at Risk?

If you created a last will and testament, under California law, when you die your will must be filed as a matter of public record. This means that the assets and property included in your estate, along with your identified beneficiaries and any outstanding debts, are recorded and viewed by potentially anyone who wishes to pay a visit to the courthouse.

Generally speaking, most of us are too busy (and uninterested) to read through public records in search of personal information about others. But for a con artist, this might be a necessary part of their “career” as a criminal.

During the first quarter of 2016 alone, scams targeting the elderly population hit a record profit of 1.7 million dollars. Con artists often use personal information, such as income, names of family members, and identifying data on property and assets, to convince elderly citizens that they are indeed calling from the IRS or some other government agency. In the most dastardly of schemes, scammers even make phone calls pretending to be a grandchild or other family member, in need of financial assistance.

If you receive a call from the IRS, keep in mind that they only send written notices relative to taxes due. You will never be asked to make a payment over the phone, and you shouldn’t fall for threats of audits, penalties, deportation, and the like. If you’re concerned, you can hang up and call the IRS directly. In the event that a grandchild calls you asking for help, call the parents first to verify the situation. The bottom line is that you should never give personal information, or send money to any individual, without double checking their identity first.

Aside from taking those precautions, keep in mind that your will includes quite a bit of personal identifying information. If you own considerable assets and property, or if you’re concerned about the identity of your loved ones, it is probably better to establish a Living Trust instead. Under California law, a Living Trust is a private contract, and generally will not become a matter of open public record.

For more information on establishing a Living Trust, call our estate planning attorney. We can help you decide if a Living Trust is right for you, and keep your personal information private.

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