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Legal Ethics

Court Fines 2 Cos. $6.4M for Unauthorized Law Practice, Bans Them From State

Posted Oct 14, 2009 3:36 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The Ohio Supreme Court has fined two "trust mill" companies $6.4 million for the unauthorized practice of law and banned them from doing business in the state.

Its ruling this morning imposed $6,387,990 in penalties against American Family Prepaid Legal Corporation; Heritage Marketing and Insurance Services Inc.; and co-owners Jeffrey and Stanley Norman, according to the Associated Press and the Columbus Dispatch.

The case, which was pursued by the Columbus Bar Association, concerned telemarketing and in-person sales calls that persuaded elderly residents of the state to obtain $1,995 living trusts instead of preparing wills.

Although the payment purportedly included an array of legal services, the court says in its written opinion, "almost exclusively ... the only legal service that the plan members received was the preparation of a living-trust document and related estate-planning instruments such as powers of attorney and a living will."

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