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1,300 Hoosiers eligible for United Financial restitution

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Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says more than 1,300 Hoosiers are eligible for restitution from United Financial Systems Corp. in the wake of a court ruling against the Indianapolis-based company.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last year United Financial Services violated state law by selling estate plans without a license to practice law.

The court determined that United Financial and related companies were liable for refunding fees to the victims and appointed the attorney general's office to assist with the refund procedure.

Zoeller said Friday that state residents must apply for restitution from the company by Oct. 15, 2011, to qualify.

Consumers who qualify and have not received a prepaid claim card in the mail from Zoeller's office should call the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division at (317) 232-6330 or 1-800-382-5516, he said.

The Supreme Court ordered United Financial in April 2010 to cease its unauthorized law practice and reimburse clients who paid fees after June 6, 2006. The court’s order applied to 1,306 clients who collectively must be repaid more than $3 million.

The company also faces at least two class-action suits that could involve 4,000 or more Indiana clients who paid fees before June 6, 2006.

Richard Kennard filed a class-action suit March 16 in Marion Superior Court against United Financial, which in 2002 sold him a $2,500 estate-planning package, along with two annuities. Kennard is represented by Indianapolis-based law firm Cohen & Malad.

Like many United Financial clients, Kennard had a will in effect when a saleswoman visited his home in 2002. His suit claims she persuaded him to buy "inappropriate" power-of-attorney and living-will and trust documents, which were drafted by a lawyer that the firm contracted. Kennard’s probate lawyer later revised the work.

In January, a Logansport law firm also filed a class-action lawsuit against United Financial on behalf of thousands of residents for what attorneys estimate could be $10 million to $20 million in damages.

The lawsuit by Starr Austen & Miller alleges constructive fraud, contractual claim violations, conversion, and disgorgement of fees due to the unlawful practice of law. . The suit named Donald A. Bonnell of Kewanna as the sole plaintiff, but it contends a larger class of 2,000 or more people could have valid claims.

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