Tuesday, January 23, 2007

S.C. Supreme Court issues opinion on unauthorized practice of law

In Franklin v. Chavis, an insurance salesman drafted a will, power of attorney, and Renunciation of Administration on behalf of an elderly woman. Not surprisingly, the documents gave salesman a hefty cut of the estate. Regarding the will and power of attorney, the court held that the salesman engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Key to the court's finding was that the salesman acted as more than a scrivener when he filled out these computer generated forms.
According to the Court: "There is no evidence Ms. Weiss reviewed the will once it was typed. The will was not typed in her presence and although respondent relates the details of what Ms. Weiss told him to do, there is no indication he contemporaneously recorded her instructions and then simply transferred the information to the form."

The completion of the Renunciation of Administration was not the practice of law. This was a probate court form with handwritten information filled in the blanks. While these forms do have legal implications, the Court described them as "straight-forward" and "provided to the public."

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