Committee of Professional Ethics v. Baker
492 N.W.2d 695 (1992)
Voegtlin was a financial
planner who encouraged people to form inter vivos trusts instead of using wills and the probate system.
Miller was a lawyer who worked for a bank and assisted Voegtlin in running
estate planning seminars.
Voegtlin and Miller went to
another lawyer, Baker, and asked if they could refer people interested in
creating inter vivos trusts to
At the seminars, Voegtlin and
Miller would explain the different kinds of trusts available to people,
and then collect their information and hold one-on-one consultations. If
the clients were interested, and had no personal attorney, Voegtlin and
Miller would send them to Baker.
Baker and Voegtlin would
draw up the trust documents for a fee.
The Commission on the
Unauthorized Practice of Law met with Miller and others to determine who
exactly was preparing the trust documents.
There were accusations that
Voegtlin was the one who prepared all the documents and that Baker was
brought in only at the very end.
Since Voegtlin was not an
attorney, he might be guilty of the unauthorized practice of law. Baker's
actions could be construed as assisting Voegtlin's crime.
They also inquired about
some misleading statements Voegtlin and Miller were making during their
Baker was worried about the
legality of the situation, so he inquired with the Committee of
Professional Ethics. They refused to give an opinion, and instead opened
The Committee of Professional
Ethics filed a complaint against Baker alleging that Baker was assisting
Voegtlin in the unauthorized practice of law, that he was allowing
Voegtlin to influence his professional judgment, and that he was accepting
Out of the 100+ clients that
Voegtlin sent him, Baker did not counsel a single one that a trust was
not in their best interest.
The Grievance Commission found
that Baker had violated ethics laws and issued a reprimand.
The Grievance Commission
found that Voegtlin was involved in the unauthorized practice of law.
It was Voegtlin who made
all the decisions, gave all the advice, and filled out all the paperwork.
The Grievance Commission
found Baker guilty of aiding Voegtlin in the unauthorized practice of law
It was Voegtlin's judgment
that was being used, not Baker's. Baker did nothing but sign papers he
didn't even prepare.
The Grievance Commission did
note that Baker cooperated with the Commission's investigation and none
of the clients had complained about their service. They also noted that
Baker did inquire as to the legality of the situation, but when he
received no answer, he just kept on doing it, even though he thought it
might be wrong.