Friday, February 17, 2012

Trustee Guilty of Unauthorized Practice of Law in Texas?

Trustees who are not attorneys beware! You may be guilty of the unauthorized practice of law in the State of Texas.

Texas Trustees are often given the power to sue or be sued on behalf of the trust; it is a necessary power, since a trust must be able to enforce its rights or defend itself from legal action. But the Amarillo Court of Appeals recently found that a non-attorney trustee had no right to proceed in a pro se capacity (i.e., without an attorney) in legal proceedings. See In Re Guetersloh, 326 S.W.3d 737 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2010, no pet.).

The court’s reasoning: the trustee was not enforcing his or her individual rights, but was instead acting on behalf of others (the trust’s beneficiaries). Since the trustee was not an attorney, he was necessarily engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

Similar rules bar a corporation’s representative from suing or defending in the name of the corporation without legal counsel.

Article by Cynthia W. Veidt, Austin Attorney