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Antelope Valley Estate Planning Law Firm Warns Consumers About Living Trust Mills

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln warns consumers against working with “Living Trust Mills.” Sales agents pretending to be experts in living trusts contact consumers–usually senior citizens–to review their estate plan. During this meeting the sales agent receives valuable financial information from the unwary consumer, using it to frighten consumers into thinking their current investments are risky and the annuities the sales people are selling are not. In the end, the consumer has a damaged estate plan and nearly depleted investments.

Antelope Valley Estate Planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln warns consumers about “Living Trust Mills,” a scheme where salespeople posing as “living trust experts” sell annuities or other investments under the guise of helping with an individual’s living trust.

Usually preying upon senior citizens through home visits or through free seminars in churches, assisted living centers and other places where seniors gather, these sales people use the financial information shared with them by unsuspecting consumers to frighten these people into thinking that their current investments are inferior and riskier than the ones the salespeople are selling.

The salespeople then meet with the person again to deliver the living trust documents and complete the transfer of the consumer’s financial assets from the previous investment vehicles to the new ones sold by the salespeople.

“What frequently happens with these ‘Living Trust Mills’,” said Mark L. Thompson, partner in Thompson Von Tungeln and certified specialist in estate planning who focuses on elder law, “is the unsuspecting consumer gets back a living trust that could be invalid, causing lasting damage to their estate plan. And then find they had a huge tax penalty due to transferring their assets to the salespeople’s products, leaving fewer dollars to their heirs.” Beware of any seminar or advertisement that includes language like “A licensed insurance agent may contact you.” This is a red flag that you are likely dealing with a Living Trust Mill.

When reviewing an estate plan, Thompson advises that consumers consult a licensed attorney, preferably a certified specialist in estate planning and trusts.

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Antelope Valley Estate Planning Law Firm Partner Von Tungeln Finalist for Business Person of the Year

Antelope Valley Estate Planning law firm partner Kevin Von Tungeln of Thompson Von Tungeln was recently named as one of nine finalists in the 2009 Antelope Valley Business Person of the Year.

To be selected, each of the finalists had to demonstrate exceptional business skills and an outstanding commitment to the Lancaster community.

“I am grateful to be accorded such an honor,” said Von Tungeln. “There are so many Antelope Valley business people who are not only very good at what they do but who are also extremely involved in this community. To stand among them is, indeed, humbling.”

While earning a degree in electrical engineering, Von Tungeln found out that he was more a “people” person than a “thing” person. So Von Tungeln entered law school, graduating from the University of New Mexico Law School in 1990 and beginning his practice in the Antelope Valley with the firm of Cosgrove, Mchelizzi and Schwabacher, Ward and Bianchi. Soon afterward, he became a solo practitioner and then a partner with Mark E. Thompson.

“Kevin understands that our firm exists to serve people,” said law firm partner Thompson. “He’s continually working to provide excellent customer service, always improving the clients’ experience.”

In addition to Von Tungeln the group of nine included a retailer, owner of a motorcycle dealership, fast food franchisees, a rancher, owner of an automobile dealership, a dentist, and another attorney. Franchise owners of several McDonald’s®, the husband and wife team of Fran and Hernando Marroquin, were named the 2009 Business People of the Year.

Since 2007, this award has been annually presented by the Antelope Valley Press, Antelope Valley Board of Trade, and the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance.
About Kevin Von Tungeln

With more than 17 years’ legal experience, Kevin L. Von Tungeln serves Thompson Von Tungeln in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, wills, trust administration, conservatorships, guardianships and elder law. He is certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialists as a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning. Get to know more about Kevin’s approach to estate planning by viewing his informational videos at: To find out more about Von Tungeln, go to his LinkedIn profile at: (

Antelope Valley Estate Planning Law Firm Answers the Question ‘What is a Will?’

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln answers the question “What is a Will?”

According to Antelope Valley estate planning lawyer Kevin Von Tungeln, a will is a traditional legal document that names individuals or organizations that will receive a person’s assets after their death; nominates an executor who will be appointed and who will be supervised by the probate court to manage their estate; and nominates guardians for their minor children.

“For the most part,” explains Von Tungeln, “most assets in your name are governed by your will. There are some exceptions, however, of assets that pass directly to named beneficiaries. These exceptions include: life insurance policies, IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement plans and some annuities and certain co-owned assets, and securities accounts and bank accounts if they are set up as payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) accounts.”

Von Tungeln added that assets transferred to a revocable living trust would be distributed according to that trust, not your will.

“Although many people can and do use fill-in-the-blank forms to create their wills, I would advise against it,” said Von Tungeln. “Because laws in the state of California and federal laws are frequently changing, it takes a California estate planning specialist to make sure that your loved ones will be fully taken care of in the way you would want, after your death.”

When Should I Begin Estate Planning?

Estate Planning for Incapacity in California

Kathy is very frustrated because the utility companies will not speak to her. All of the utilities are in her husband’s name. The same is true with the banks. The problem is that Ira isn’t at home with Kathy; Ira is in a nursing home because he has dementia. To make matters worse, Kathy is having problems with Ira’s medical care providers as well. Kathy cannot believe that she is having these problems because she and Ira have been married for 63 years. It isn’t supposed to be like this!

How could Kathy and Ira have avoided these problems? In California, it would have only taken three simple estate planning documents for Kathy to be able to handle all of these matters, even with everything still in Ira’s name. She and Ira need to have a power of attorney for financial affairs, an advanced health care directive for medical decisions, and a HIPAA authorization to access medical records.

The financial power of attorney would allow Kathy to deal with the utility companies or banks when things were just in Ira’s name. The advanced health care directive would empower Kathy to make all medical decisions for Ira. Finally, the HIPAA authorization would allow Kathy access to medical records that are protected under privacy laws.

All three of these documents are easily created or purchased. Don’t wait until it is too late, and expect doctors and utility companies to take directions from you just because you are the spouse. Make sure you have an estate plan in place now.

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