Legal Ethics

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

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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