The Food and Drug Administration issued a massive recall this weekend for any estate planning advice originating in 2009, indicating that the advice may have been “too confusing and subject to excessively changing attitudes and approaches to gift and estate tax issues.” It is unclear what authority the FDA has to issue the recall, which affects more than 32 million consumers who adopted estate plans or executed Wills during 2009. Some experts believe the FDA is expressing a long-held belief that it has jurisdictional authority over consumer legal service issues.
“I’m bewildered,” said estate planning expert Todd Smoltzer, who also chairs the American Bar Association’s 320-member task force of estate planning initiatives. “Normally, this would be a National Transportation Safety issue, so I’m not sure how the FDA got involved other than it represents the beginning of an agency turf war.”
The recall, which goes into effect February 1, is for any “estate planning advice or documents originating in calendar year 2009.” Law firms are already scrambling to contact clients about the recall. Some firms are offering a free fix, while others see the recall as a way to improve diminishing profit margins in the estate planning area. “It’s a win-win, if you ask me,” one estate planning attorney said. “Props to the FDA!”