A Few Tips from the FBI

Pickett FBI

The Utah Valley Estate Planning Council recently had an FBI agent give a presentation on local trends in white collar crime and fraud.  Here are a few of his warning signs to look out for in any sales pitch or “opportunity.”  Most of these are familiar, but the scammers keep winning in spite of the same red flags:

  • The Scammer has no license to sell securities, insurance, or whatever he is selling (you can check most Utah licenses online here, and real estate professionals here)
  • Licensed professionals (attorneys or CPAs) advise against it
  • Promising a high rate of return
  • Lack of financial documents and transparency
  • Exploiting religion to gain trust
  • Do not invest in mine tailings, foreign lottery tickets, or give someone cash just because they gave you a check that hasn’t cleared yet
  • Do not pay anyone who says they are from the  FBI and wants to charge you for investigating your recent losses


Arid Typos

Tortoise 2

The word “and” is very similar (optically) to the word “arid.” Thus, it is easily miss-read by OCR software.  And more to blame, often overlooked by a draftsman over-relying on copy/paste– and spell check will not flag it. This results in all sorts of “arid typos” in already dry legal documents.  Check out this sampling of scorched legal phrases, listed in order of Google hits.

  • “last will arid testament” (27,500)
  • “landlord arid tenant” (5,940)
  • “arid said property” (3,200)
  • “books arid records” (1,250)
  • “indemnify arid hold harmless” (260)
  • “arid attorneys fees” (170)
  • “cease arid desist” (159)
  • “the receipt arid sufficiency of which” (60)
  • “arid assignees” (43)
  • “open arid notorious” (10)
  • “covenants arid warranties” (5)

Sad Zombie Can’t Use Power of Attorney


A power-of-attorney document let’s an agent carry out transactions on behalf of another. But this legal power ends when the person authorizing the agent dies.  So the simple lesson here, is that this document can be useful, but it has a limited role, it doesn’t help at all after you’re gone (or turned into a zombie).

The Game of Transfers


You can’t take it with you.  But you can make gifts at your passing.  And for that, there are four basic legal processes.  Each asset will wind up in one of these four boxes. For example, you might leave a home to go through probate, and a life insurance policy to go through contract forms.  A good estate plan will have documents that address what happens to all of your assets — no matter what box they come through — for a coordinated approach.