Q: Every day, I seem to have a mailbox full of invitations to free seminars on living trusts and financial planning. Would these seminars provide me with the information I need?

A: The answer may be yes — but more likely no.

These seminars address general issue of estate planning. The right strategies for a person to make proper decisions must be based on that person’s unique circumstances.

The sponsors of this type of seminar many times have a product or service to sell, and while they do provide some useful information, they also are promoting the purchase of their product or service.

The complexity of estate planning unfortunately provides a window of opportunity for con artists at financial planning seminars. You need to protect yourself. Be very careful about what information you offer about yourself and carefully read and fully understand anything you sign.

Before you sign any papers to create a will or trust or invest money, explore all your options with an experienced attorney or financial adviser of your choice. Initiate the contact with the provider instead of dealing with a salesperson who contacted you or offered a free seminar.

Avoid high-pressure sales tactics from phone, door-to-door or seminar salespeople. If a salesperson gives the impression that a well-known organization is endorsing a product or service, check with that organization.

Do some homework. Learn the difference between wills and trusts. Investigate how probate works. Understand the pros and cons of different types of investing.

Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you do decide to attend such a meeting, do two things: Sit on your hands and keep your mouth shut. By sitting on your hands, you won’t sign anything; by keeping your mouth shut, you won’t reveal any personal information.

Q: Lately, it seems that my doctor and I aren’t communicating too well. Is there something I can do to improve this situation?

A: Yes. To receive a correct diagnosis, your doctor must receive detailed, not vague, descriptions of your symptoms. The doctor needs the whole picture, not just what you may think is important.

To make sure you don’t forget to provide specific information, make a list of your concerns and take it with you. Listen carefully and speak up if you don’t understand. Don’t be afraid about interrupting to have a point re-examined.

Take notes so you can review them when you get home. Better yet, have someone accompany you to the appointment. Two sets of ears are often better than one.


Aug. 10: Antique bazaar, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Entrance fee is $5, or free for children under 12. Call 381-2744 for more information.

Aug. 11: “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test” seminar, 1:30-3 p.m., Moorpark Active Adult Center, 799 Moorpark Avenue, Moorpark. Call 517-6261 for information and reservations.

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