November 9, 2017: State Bar Supports Two Groundbreaking Recommendations Regarding Online Forms, NY Trust Code

The New York State Bar Association has approved two groundbreaking reports with recommendations that, if adopted by the Legislature, “will help protect consumers who use online legal documents and will simplify, modernize and update New York’s trust law,” announced Association President Sharon Stern Gerstman of Buffalo (Magavern, Magavern and Grimm LLP).

Regulation of online legal forms
The State Bar approved a report at its Nov. 4 meeting in Albany by the New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) that seeks to regulate online legal documents, an industry that generates approximately $5 billion per year and is often used by those who cannot afford – or do not wish to seek – traditional legal access to justice methods.

NYCLA’s report is the first time that regulation of online legal providers has been proposed in New York, recommending that a set of regulatory standards for protection of the public be adopted and, in the absence of such standards, proposes the voluntary practices as an interim measure.

Because online providers of forms are often neither lawyers nor law firms, the attorney-client privilege does not apply and this is not always adequately conveyed to consumers.

“We want to turn toward the problem, we don’t want to back away from it,” said Sarah Jo Hamilton of Scarsdale (Scalise Hamilton & Sheridan LLP), who presented the report with Ronald C. Minkoff of New York City (Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz PC). “It is an ongoing entity and business and we should get on board to make sure the public is protected.”

New York Trust Code
The State Bar also approved a report by its Trusts and Estates Law Section recommending enactment of a new New York Trust Code for trusts. New York trust law has not been comprehensively reviewed since 1966, and in the past 50 years, trust practices have dramatically changed.

The report recommends adding new article 7-A to the Estates, Powers and Trust Law that would enable changed practices and case law to be codified, making it simpler for lawyers practicing in the trusts and estates field, which will redound to the benefit of the public.

“Fundamentally, the proposed New York Trust Code law codifies current New York case law relating to gratuitous trusts, and the case law today is voluminous,” said Sharon L. Wick of Buffalo (Phillips Lytle LLP), chair of the section, who, along with Professor Ira Mark Bloom of Albany (Albany Law School), presented the report to the House of Delegates.

“The proposal also improves upon existing statutory law, which results in a more modern law for New York, making it more competitive in the trust business. By codifying the case law in one comprehensive statute, we are also bringing efficiencies to practitioners and the courts, which will ultimately better serve our clients.”

Link to Trusts and Estates Law Section report and NYCLA report, as well as Commercial and Federation Litigation Section’s report (press release here) entitled “If Not Now, When? Achieving Equality for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR” can be found at: https://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/SecondaryStandard.aspx?id=77143

About the New York State Bar Association
Since 1876, the New York State Bar Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

Contact: Christina Couto
Editor, State Bar News
ccouto@nysba.org
518/487-5535