I recently received a message from a client. The message indicated he received a letter from the Indiana Records Department about the transfer on death (TOD) deed I prepared and recorded.
He indicated the letter offered to send him a copy of the deed. The problem he had with the letter was that it indicated the home was now titled in the name of his TOD beneficiary rather than in his name. Obviously, he was concerned and, to be honest, so was I. I’m not perfect, and I have made mistakes. This seemed like kind of a big one so I rushed back to my office to review the file.
After I reviewed the file it appeared that the deed was in order. Just your typical run of the mill TOD deed. I couldn’t understand why anyone would think that the home was now in the name of the TOD beneficiary.
It’s about that time that I listened to the message again. The message indicated he received a letter from the Indiana Records Department. It seemed unusual that he received a letter like that, but what really stumped me was that the letter came from an office that I’d never heard of. It was about that time that it all clicked.
I called my client back and asked him to read me the letter. What became apparent was that the letter was a sales pitch. Apparently this company will obtain and mail you a copy of your deed; for a fee of course. This company either got the information incorrect or those folks just don’t know what they are talking about.
Now, I’m not against free enterprise. I’m all in favor of folks making a buck. But this sort of thing seems a bit misleading. It scared my client to death and got me thinking about the implications of malpractice. The letter sounded pretty official and I’m guessing that it has fooled a lot of people.
The moral of the story is that there are a lot of people who may show an interest in your estate plan. Some of them may offer you an opinion or advice. Others may try to sell you a service. Still others may simply want to tell you their own estate planning horror stories.
At the end of the day, you need to be careful who you listen to and whose advice you accept. Remember that there are only a few people who truly know your circumstances. People such as your attorney, accountant and investment adviser are the ones who are probably in the best position to offer you guidance. Everyone else is likely guessing your circumstances and are probably missing important information.
I’m not suggesting that people offering you advice or even a service involving your estate plan have bad intentions. What I’m suggesting is that it is alright to be skeptical and even a little on guard. It’s like the song says “be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it."