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50 ELDERLY FRAUD VICTIMS MAY RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT

Some 50 senior citizens in Utah who bought into a living-trust scam through an Oklahoma-based company could receive up to $500 in refunds, according to the Utah attorney general's office.

The corporation, Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., purportedly used door-to-door salesmen with no legal training to sell living trusts as part of a membership package to a senior citizen advocacy group, said Attorney General Jan Graham.Pre-Paid officials signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance last week requiring the company to stop selling living trusts unless the buyers can meet first with an attorney. The company also agreed to pay legal costs to the numerous states involved in the case.

Upon membership payment to join the group - the American Association of Senior Citizens - members were also offered prescription drug and travel discounts.

More than 3,000 consumers in 20 other states will be eligible to receive refunds of between $300 and $500 for their purchase of a living trust, Graham said. More than 48 were sold in Utah. AASC charged $2,000 or more for each membership, of which about $400 was given to Pre-Paid.

Graham said the salesmen used high-pressure sales tactics and misrepresented the advantages of trusts over wills.

"AASC preyed on people's fears about estate planning and probate. AASC misrepresented that use of living trusts would avoid lengthy probate proceedings and would allow assets to be distributed immediately upon death," she said.

The group also promised that using living trusts would save consumers substantial amounts in estate and income taxes and attorney fees.

Graham's office said the trusts were drafted by Richard Clark, a lawyer from Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Clark did not meet with the consumers to determine if they had the necessary capacity to execute the trust or if the trust adequately met their needs. Nor did Clark tailor the trusts to comply with applicable state laws," she said.

With the agreement, Pre-paid will pay $105,000 to 20 other states named in the settlement, including several other Western states.