Minnesota AG sues estate-planning firm for alleged fraud

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The Minnesota Attorney General sued an estate-planning company for bilking about 500 Minnesota households out of close to $1 million, according to the Pioneer Press.

Attorney General Lori Swanson called Heritage Partners a "trust mill." The suit alleges that the company promised professional legal preparation of trusts and wills. However, Swanson's office investigated the document-preparer, Dennis Harold Lawrence, and could find no evidence that he has a license to practice law.

The suit alleges that both Heritage and Lawrence engaged in consumer fraud and deceptive trade practices, that Heritage violated Minnesota's three-day right to cancel law for in-home sales and the fiduciary duty statute for financial planners, and that Lawrence engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Minnesota.

At least one couple who set up annuities through Heritage Partners found the annual fees more than the interest earned, and had trouble getting the company to return their calls.

KARE 11 reports that Heritage enticed prospects with invitations to "free" dinners at local restaurants, where families were told about the importance of living trusts.

Heritage insurance agents then allegedly arranged to meet them in their homes, where they were pitched a set of estate-planning documents for $2,295.

The attorney general said Heritage Partners operates out of the Shorewood home of an insurance agent, Anthony J. Friendshuh.

"With an aging population, many people are thinking of estate planning, and they should be on guard against "trust mills" that churn out legal documents with the ulterior motive of selling insurance products," Swanson said.

The lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, is asking the company to pay legal expenses and restitution to its victims.

More information about current scams and how to avoid them is available on the attorney general's website.

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