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Unauthorized Practice of Law Comm. of Wyoming State Bar v. Stock

Wyoming Supreme Court
456 P.3d 1234 (Mem.) (2020)


Facts

Gunsmith Richard Casull held multiple bullet-related patents. In their mid-seventies, Casull and wife Geraldine had a lawyer prepare a living trust to protect their assets. Attorney Kevin Voyles amended the trust agreement for the Casulls in 2010 and 2016. In 2017, nonlawyer Clyde Stock convinced the Casulls to sign a document titled “D&G Bullet Trust, a business trust.” Stock said it created an irrevocable “complex-business trust” that would protect the Casulls’ business assets but not include personal property. But the trust explicitly covered all their property, and Stock had the Casulls sign quitclaim deeds placing their personal residence into the trust. Stock made himself and another nonlawyer, Martin Occhi, trustees, with “absolute and uncontrolled discretion and power,” including setting their own compensation, and no liability. Both Casulls signed powers of attorney authorizing Stock to act for them. A nephew who was beneficiary of the living trust took the documents to Voyles. Voyles wrote the Wyoming Office of Bar Counsel, describing the unusual trust provisions and accusing Stock of unauthorized practice. Voyles said Casull was terminally ill, did not read or understand the documents, and did not realize their property was no longer in their names. Voyles said Geraldine also lacked capacity to sign legal documents. Casull died three months later in May 2018, followed by Geraldine in February 2019, both at 87. Their nephew retained another attorney who submitted a formal report to Bar Counsel accusing Stock and Occhi of unauthorized practice. Stock wrote claiming he never intended to practice law, had been friends with Casull over 50 years, and merely adapted his own estate plan for the Casulls. Stock sent a second letter with a list of cases that supposedly said he did not need a license to practice law. Meanwhile, Voyles obtained an appraisal and title commitment to clear title problems the Bullet Trust created, incurring costs and fees totaling $4,464. Bar Counsel proposed settlement by consent agreement, requiring Stock to pay those costs plus $100 for each legal document he prepared. Stock sent an “Express Notice of ‘Waiver of Tod’” offering to settle claims against Bar Counsel and others for payment of $620,000. Bar Counsel petitioned for an injunction, and the court held a hearing before the Wyoming Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. Voyles testified about the Casulls, the irregularities in the documents Stock prepared, and the costs of clearing the title problems. Stock did not appear.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Davis, C.J.)

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