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Recent Blog Posts

May
07
2014

Unauthorized Practice of Law

Posted 6 years 147 days ago ago by Danielle Streed

I had a client recently say to me, there is a difference between an attorney who does estate planning and an estate planning attorney.  Although this is typically correct, as one specializes in the area of estate planning and one who dabbles in it, it is still good to know that you are dealing with an attorney.  The problem is that not everybody seeks out the assistance of an attorney and not everybody is honest about their legal ability to engage in the practice of law.  In New York a bill was approved that would make the unauthorized practice of law a felony.  This would be something almost as serious as rape, stalking, insurance fraud, identity theft and even inciting a riot.  It would also make the penalty for this unlawful practice of law a maximum of four years in state prison.  The same punishment faced by doctors, accountants, and architects who perform the trade without the appropriate license.  The fact of the matter is that licenses for attorneys or passing the state bar ensures the public that a certain level of competency has been achieved to practice within a profession.  The purpose of the law is to provide consistency.  Over the last several years the unauthorized practice of law has consistently become an issue whereby paralegals, financial advisors and individuals holding themselves out as experts have mislead individuals into believing that they are authorized to provide this advice.  The problem is that these individuals are not only not licensed, but many of them do not have the necessary malpractice insurance or liability insurance to protect the client in the event a mistake is made.  Our biggest problem is that the local district attorney often lack the time and resources to pursue these sham lawyers.  There is a simple rule of thumb.  When seeking any legal advice, on any matter, including estate planning matters, you want to verify that the individual is licensed to practice law.  In Michigan, an attorney that is licensed to practice law is given a number that begins the with the letter “P”.  That “P” number is their State of Michigan authorized number to show that they are legal and valid.  Additionally, you can contact the State Bar of Michigan to verify that that attorney is still in good standing and is not currently subject to any sanctions or suspension of their license.  When it comes to important things like your estate plan or anything dealing with your personal, financial, medical or family needs, it is important not to place your trust in the hands of anyone but an expert.





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