Informal Opinion Number: 20000165

Rules: 4-1.6
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Confidentiality of Information

QUESTION: Attorney has been subpoenaed to produce a file that contains information regarding a deceased client. The children of the deceased are represented by counsel, but no estate was opened for the deceased client´s estate. The same file will contain information about another deceased client, the spouse. Attorney does not know if an estate has been opened for that client. The matter involves the possible misuse of a power of attorney by the holder of a power of attorney some time after the power was prepared. May Attorney disclose this information?
ANSWER: Under Rule 1.6 of Supreme Court Rule 4, the Rules of Professional Conduct, Attorney may not disclose any information Attorney obtained in the course of representing either deceased client. However, Attorney may provide a copy of any will or testamentary trust Attorney prepared, to the heirs of the deceased, if Attorney believes that would be consistent with the goals of the deceased. Attorney may only provide the information sought through the subpoena if Attorney is ordered to do so by a judge, after the legal and factual issues related to confidentiality have been fully presented. Confidentiality, under Rule 4-1.6, is broader than the evidentiary attorney-client privilege, which arises from statute. If the judge orders Attorney to provide information, Attorney should seek to have the order as specific and limited as possible.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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