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Legal Advice vs. Legal Information

Legal advice is one thing, legal information is another. A preprinted form approved by the Florida Board of Realtors, a child support guideline worksheet or an approved online full-text version of a statute are all legal information. Any interpretation as to what this widely available legal information means transforms legal information into legal advice.

Florida has some of the country’s most stringent laws on Unlicensed Practice of Law and defines legal advice as “giving legal advice and counsel to others as to their rights and obligations under the law and the preparation of legal instruments, including contracts, by which legal rights are obtained, secured, or given away.”

In Florida the only thing a non-lawyer can do legally for someone is sell or provide them a preprinted form and type in the information that they provide to them. They cannot tell you what information you should put on the form, what type of form to use or what impact the information you put on the form may have. They cannot interpret or explain what the form means, and they cannot help you fill it out.

These restrictions impact a variety of industries, like financial planning and insurance, and are especially relevant in real estate transactions and closings.

In Florida it is common practice for a title agent representative to appear at a mortgage closing and to manage the title and disbursement portion of a transaction. The line between services provided by non-attorney title and settlement professionals and those services that are only allowed to be performed by lawyers can become blurred and is often not well-understood.

It is easy to see how reviewing loan documents or answering questions about contracts and mortgage agreement details might be viewed as ancillary to the broader “title and settlement” functions often performed by non-lawyers. This misconception puts everyone involved in the transaction at risk. Realtors, their clients and title and settlement agents who are not lawyers should be cognizant of crossing the line and creating liability for themselves and their companies.

It is prudent to remember that conducting property title transfer searches, public records searches, and issuing insurance is not the same thing as drafting, reviewing and educating on contracts, explaining legal documents, answering questions about legal issues, and negotiating the resolution of business and legal disputes (including short sales). If you are engaging in anything beyond the scope of your licensure, be sure to involve a qualified, licensed attorney to protect all parties from claims of unlicensed activity.

We recommend that you seek the legal advice of a qualified attorney when handling your legal matters. The Kendrick Law Group provides quality legal counsel and seeks to protect your rights and interests in accordance with the law. Contact us today for your complimentary consultation at (407) 641-5847.

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