Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Boomers to Become “Rich” Targets for Estate Looters

Lou Ann Anderson

“Gone to Texas” was a phrase used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the 19th century and is applicable again today as the Baby Boomers (Americans born 1946-1964) begin to retire and relocate, as in times past, to Texas. Georgetown, Texas, was just named a top retirement town by Where to Retire magazine and a recent report by the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement lists Texas as the #2 state for retiree relocation surpassing Arizona and continuing to close the gap with Florida.

Whether in Texas or elsewhere, being a retirement “hot spot” energizes everyone from government officials and Chambers of Commerce to realtors and other business interests. The concentration of a retirement-age population, however, can bring another element into a community – predators seeking to operate within probate venues so as to divert estate assets from intended beneficiaries or heirs. In more simple terms, modern day looters and poachers intent on using the American legal system to steal property from the dead or disabled/incapacitated.

A new Horace Cooper column entitled A New Inheritance Tax for Baby Boomers discusses the upcoming transfer of wealth from Baby Boomers to their heirs and warns that “inheritance and estate planning scams are reportedly on the rise and perhaps even more pernicious is the rise in inheritance related litigation as the ever larger stockpiles of cash and real estate act as a magnet for trouble-makers.” Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) acts that base lawsuits on probate instruments such as trusts, wills and guardianships are insightfully characterized as a litigation tax on inheritance.

Law enforcement and the courts provide minimal safeguard or justice. Local authorities often refrain from criminal prosecutions and instead defer IRA adjudications to civil courts. Court battles are the traditional “remedy” for such actions. But win or lose, massive financial expense as well as a stringent emotional toll can yield the only true “winners” in these cases to be the participating lawyers. Many people cannot afford to take action as our courts are a pay-to-play venue.


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