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Ohio Supreme Court Fines Non-Lawyer Sellers of Living Trusts

  • December 20th, 2005

The Ohio Supreme Court has blocked a company that uses non-lawyers to sell living trusts nationwide from selling living trusts in Ohio and fined the company more than $1 million.

The Estate Plan, a Nevada-based company, markets and prepares living trusts and other estate planning documents. The company partners with "advisors" who are typically not attorneys. The advisors targeted senior citizens in Ohio using telemarketing lists and conducted sales presentations with interested parties regardless of whether the customer actually needed a living trust or an estate plan. After a customer purchased a trust, the advisors sent it to review attorneys who entered the customer's information in a document template. The Cleveland Bar Association filed a complaint against the company and its advisors.

The Ohio Supreme Court found the company and its advisors engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when they told customers they needed a living trust, when they recommended different types of trusts, and when they advised customers of the legal consequences of their choice. According to the court, the use of a review attorney did not shield the company because the attorney was only tangentially involved. The court ordered the company to hand over a list of its customers or face additional fines, and it directed the bar association to contact individuals who purchased living trusts and suggest that they see an attorney.

For the full text of the decision, Cleveland Bar Association v. Sharp Estate Serv., Inc., 107 Ohio St.3d 219, 2005-Ohio-6267, click here.

For more on the inappropriate sale of living trusts, click here.

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Last Modified: 12/20/2005

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