Friday, October 16, 2009

Trust Mills Beware

For many years, estate planning attorneys, bar associations and the Ohio Legislature have warned citizens to beware of Trust Mills. Now the Ohio Supreme court has sent a message to Trust Mills to beware of operating in Ohio. A Trust Mill is a company that has agents pushing a “one-type fits all” trust form for a substantial price. Trust Mills often focus on the elderly with scare tactics such as brochures and mailings warning that even modest estates will be consumed by estate taxes and probate fees. In most instances, the victims of Trust Mills never speak with an attorney.

The Ohio Supreme Court in its decision, Columbus Bar Assn. v. Am. Family Prepaid Legal Corp., imposed a $6.4 Million civil penalty against a California Trust Mill operating in Ohio. The penalty is also against the two owners of the Trust Mill, American Family Prepaid Legal Corporation. The Supreme Court decision does a very good job of laying out how these companies operate.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has a report on the decision, Court Fines 2 Cos. $6.4M for Unauthorized Law Practice, Bans Them From State. The Columbus Dispatch reported on the decision, Companies that duped thousands of Ohio senior citizens fined $6.4 million. The Associated Press has an article, $6.4M fine in Ohio for illegal practice of law.