Ask the Expert: My Brother Received a Deed Processing Notice in the Mail- Is it Real or a Scam?

Q.  My 65-year old brother, Sam, recently transferred his residence to a Living Trust PlusTM.  Last week, he received a “Deed Processing Notice” in the mail that looks a lot like a bill from the U.S. government.  There was a date on it for a couple of weeks from now by which they are requiring him and his wife, Edna, to pay $83 for a copy of their deed and a “Property Profile.” He asked me what I thought and I told him I had never heard of this before. When I looked at the note, they seem to have the parcel number for his property (not sure if it is the right one), but there are statements that it is not a bill but a solicitation and that he can obtain a copy of his deed from the recorder in his county for “up to $83.00.” He lives in Fairfax County, VA.  Is this something he should pay attention to or is it a scam? I want to make sure that Sam and Edna are not missing something that is required of them.  I also want to make sure they don’t get duped.

In addition, Sam was raving about The Living Trust Plus. Is there a way I can find out more about it for my family?

A. Police officers and Better Business Bureaus around the country are warning property owners not to fall victim to an apparent new scam attempt being mailed these days. What you describe sounds exactly like the scam consumers (mostly seniors) are being warned about. Click on this link for an example of a deed processing scam.

The company, Deed Retrieval Department (which also does business as Deed Retrieval Services and Record Retrieval Department), has been sending homeowners letters that appear to be a bill for $83 from the U.S. government for a property deed. However, despite the fact that it looks official, it’s not a bill nor is it from the U.S. government. The letter says, “Why do we believe you need a copy of your current Grant Deed Property Profile?  State Record Regulation Department recommends that all U.S. homeowners obtain a copy of their current Grant Deed.”  At the bottom, the letter states that the “product or service is not endorsed by any government agency.” However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) believes that consumers may overlook this fine print. Letters list an address, but when research was done, it was actually found to be a UPS Store.

“In most cases, homeowners don’t even need a copy of the deed to their home,” said BBB President and CEO Dana Badgerow. “And if you want a copy, we advise against paying $83 to this firm or any other when you can get one for a fraction of that price from your local County Clerk’s or Register of Deed’s office.”

Your deed is recorded at the Registry of Deeds or Land Court, and in the case of the Registry you are mailed the original one after it is recorded. You can always request a copy of your deed directly from your local Registry, for just a few dollars. Any company charging you $20+ dollars should be questioned, especially if you did not reach out to this company but received unsolicited mail from them.

In Fairfax County, to obtain a copy of your deed by mail, you can complete the Land Records Copy Request Form and follow the directions on the form.

A quick search online showed that other states were warning folks of these letters that make it sound like you need to buy a copy of the deed to your house.

If you have doubts about mail you receive asking you for money for something you didn’t request, think twice and ask someone else what they think. Consumers who receive questionable offers or have concerns about mailings that appear to be official or have governmental ties, are encouraged to contact the BBB at 1-800-646-6222, or to bring it to your local police station.

In your question, you also inquired about The Living Trust PlusTM. The Living Trust PlusTM is an irrevocable asset protection trust that you create while you are living, that allows you to receive all income from the trust assets, including the right to live in any trust-owned real estate, but you can not have direct access to principal.

The Living Trust PlusTM functions very similarly to a revocable living trust and maintains much of the flexibility of a revocable living trust, but protects your assets from the expenses and difficulties of probate PLUS the expenses of long-term care while you’re alive, PLUS lawsuits and a multitude of other financial risks during your lifetime. The Living Trust PlusTM Asset Protection Trust protects your assets from lawsuits, auto accidents, creditor attacks, medical expenses, and — most importantly for the 99% of Americans who are not among the ultra-wealthy — from the catastrophic expenses often incurred in connection with nursing home care.  For most Americans, the Living Trust PlusTM is the preferable form of asset protection trust because, for purposes of Medicaid eligibility, this type of trust is the only type of self-settled asset protection trust that allows a settlor to retain an interest in the trust while also protecting the assets from being counted by state Medicaid agencies.

I encourage you to read more about The Living Trust PlusTM on The Fairfax Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website or at http://www.livingtrustplus.com. You are also welcome to attend one of our no-cost monthly seminars. Please call us at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a complimentary consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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