The Florida Bar

April 25, 1967

An arrangement whereby the general counsel of an “estate protection service” would prepare various trust indentures or other documents for consideration of clients of the service and on occasion represent such clients is improper.

Canons: 35, 47
Opinions: 64-33, 64-70, 66-19

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

An organization styled as “Estate Protection Service,” offering to act as financial, management, and economic consultants in establishing “family circle trust organizations” for the apparent purpose of avoiding probate and estate taxes for its clientele, has requested a member of The Florida Bar to serve as its general counsel. Apparently the attorney would prepare various trust indentures or other documents for the consideration of these clients with the understanding that the proprietors of the service would advise such clients that they might retain their own counsel for review of these documents. If the customers did not utilize their own attorneys then the general counsel would undertake with the consent of the client to represent the interests of the client and what is termed “the family trust organization.”

A number of inquiries are posed, including several relating to the definition of the unauthorized practice of law. Necessarily that is a matter without the scope of the opinion of this Committee. However, it does not seem improvident to observe that the selling of a service for the only apparent purpose of organizing an estate from the principal standpoint of potential tax liability, apparently unaccompanied by any of the other conventional business relationships of insurance, accounting or a statutorily qualified trustee, will surely suffer for lack of a label if it does not constitute the practice of law.

The arrangement posed is not remarkably different from those condemned in our previous Opinions 64-33 and 64-70. We therefore believe that it would be improper for the attorney to act for the Estate Protection Service, even assuming that it is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, in the preparation of documents for submission to prospective customers or actual customers of the service.

We necessarily also observe that inasmuch as the attorney is not to be a full-time employee of the service he may not use the title general counsel (see our Opinion 66-19) (since withdrawn).

[Revised: 08-24-2011]