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Wells v. Sanford

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant and a certified financial planner entered into a scheme by which the financial planner held seminars advising people on the need for a living trust and then later referred them on to the Defendant attorney to complete the documents.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An individual who exercises professional judgment in advising others as to the need for a living trust is committing the unauthorized practice of law and a lawyer who takes referrals from such individual is aiding him in such acts.

    Facts. Nora Wells was declared physically incompetent in 1974 and appointed a guardian. In 1979 Wells’ son passed away leaving his estate in trust to his mother. The will provided that the son “give, devise, and bequeath my entire estate to Elvan G. Sanford, as Trustee to be held in trust for the use and benefit of my mother as long as she lives.” Wells owed an unpaid bill from her nursing home and the guardian petitioned the court for permission to sell Wells’ assets to pay the debt. Appellants, Wells’ surviving children, petitioned the court to have the trust assets sold to pay for the debt. The trial court dismissed the Appellant’s petition finding that the trust was intended by Wells’ son to be used to support her only if her own property was insufficient.

    Issue. Whether Wells’ son intended that the phrase “sums necessary for the support and maintenance” of Nora Wells means that his estate was to be appropriated to maintain Wells when she had sufficient means or whether he intended to have his estate held available for her support in the event those means were exhausted?

    Held. Reverse. The clause in Wells’ son’s will creates

    Discussion. The Court found that Baker’s actions did not discourage Voegtlin but rather encouraged him by exercising professional judgment, acting in a confidential capacity with the referred clients, furnishing him with forms to use at the seminars, and accepting the referrals.


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