|By Jennifer Bjorhus, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"Trust mill" schemes have been around for years, but
"We want to get ahead of this problem," Swanson said in an interview Monday. "With the aging population, we're concerned that there are a lot of people out there looking at estate planning."
Investigators still are looking at what
People running trust mills tend to exaggerate the dangers of probate and exaggerate the benefits of having a trust, she said, and then push other financial products such as insurance.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in
The complaint accuses all of them of consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and deception against senior citizens. It also accuses
Lawrence said he was aware of the complaint and said he wouldn't discuss its specifics. "I deny all the charges," he said.
Heritage falsely markets itself as having special expertise in estate planning, according to the state's complaint, and downplays that Friendshuh is registered as an insurance agent.
Customers were wooed at dinners at such popular restaurants as
By state law, anyone holding themselves out as an estate planner is considered to be engaged in the business of financial planning. State law also requires trusts and wills to be prepared by an attorney licensed to practice law in
In 2005, Lawrence and his company were sued for fraud by the
Swanson announced the lawsuit at a news conference Monday surrounded by about 10 couples who did business with
Among them was 70-year-old
When they finally reached Friendshuh about the mistake, he told them to make the correction by hand on their document, they said. "I feel like this is an example of a growing number of us baby boomers being taken advantage of wrongfully by a tactic of building trust," Gary said.
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