'Estate Planners' Ravage Seniors, Class Claims

     SANTA CLARA, Calif. (CN) - Two Bay Area men who run Advanced Estate Planning Consultants targeted senior citizens for "worthless" but expensive advice, claiming they could "pre-qualify" their victims "for Medi-Cal benefits," a class action claims in Superior Court. Richard Holody, of San Jose, and David Sherr offered a "free 'entitlement-planning workshop,'" where they subjected victims to high-pressure sales and a "coursebook" full of misrepresentations and omissions, the class claims.
     The named plaintiff, who is 65 or older, says Holody and Sherr preyed on the fears of senior citizens.
     "Defendants fraudulently told these seniors that defendants could 'pre-qualify' them for Medi-Cal benefits," the complaint states. "In fact, it is not possible to 'pre-qualify' and individual for Medi-Cal benefits, and in most cases these seniors either already qualified without defendants' assistance or would never have qualified without spending down significant portions of their assets," according to the complaint.
     Holody calls himself the president and owner of the company. Neither he nor Sherr is licensed to practice law in California, but they sell estate planning and legal advice, according to the complaint.
     The class claims the man have been doing this for at least 4 years, "engaging in the unauthorized practice of law."
     According to the complaint:
     Holody and Sherr used their "seminars" to pitch a "fool-proof" method of qualifying seniors and promising to protect their assets. They offered bogus statistics about the number of seniors who end up in nursing homes and in need of long-term benefits.
     The named plaintiff says he spent more than $10,000 for the "worthless or near worthless" service.
     The complaint claims the defendants' "entitlement-planning workshop" was "hosted by a law firm which specializes in estate planning." The 16-page complaint does not identify the law firm. But it says the "seminar" the lead plaintiff and his wife attended was in Visalia, and the "Holody, Sherr, and AEPC" used it "to convinced the seniors in attendance that they should purchase 'entitlement planning' services from AEPC."
     The class seeks restitution and punitive damages for negligence, elder financial abuse, violations of consumer law, unfair competition, and costs.
     They are represented by Kathryn Stebner of San Francisco.