The Florida Bar
OPINION 74-15It is improper for an attorney to form and own a corporation that solicits persons eligible for tax deed surplus funds, for this amounts to indirect solicitation of clients.
July 5, 1974
July 5, 1974
CPR: DR 2-103
Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar formed a corporation in which he is apparently the sole stockholder. The corporation is engaged in the business of locating persons entitled to surplus funds from tax deed sales.
Section 197.291(2), Florida Statutes, provides that when there is a surplus from a tax deed sale, the circuit court clerk shall send a notice to the person who was the legal title holder of record on the day of the sale. Not infrequently, the legal title holder of record has moved without leaving a forwarding address or has died, and the notice is returned to the clerk.
The corporation steps in where the efforts of the circuit court clerk leave off. First, it obtains lists of persons entitled to the surplus funds and then tries to locate them by writing former neighbors, civic organizations, and others. If the search is successful, the corporation arranges, for a fee, to have the person execute a Proof-Of-Claim form supplied by the circuit court clerk and to send it directly to the clerk.
If the investigation indicates that the former legal titleholder has died and that probate proceedings are necessary to establish entitlement to a refund, the corporation works out, again for a fee, an arrangement with the next of kin whereby the inquiring attorney performs whatever legal services are necessary to enable the next of kin to claim the refund and the corporation pays the attorney.
The attorney asks for our opinion about the propriety of his association with the corporation under these circumstances. He points out that but for the corporation's efforts many persons would be unaware of their rights to claim these surplus funds.
The Committee is of the opinion that, however worthy the services the corporation performs, its actions amount to indirect solicitation in the attorney's behalf and that his connection with the corporation results in its channeling or feeding to him the legal work developed by its solicitation, all in violation of DR 2-103. See Opinion 73-32.