The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 67-11

April 25, 1967
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.

35, 47
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
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