Informal Opinion Number: 2011-02

Rules: 4-5.4
Law Firms and Associations
Professional Independence of a Lawyer
Summary: attorney designating spouse as TOD beneficiary of stock

Question 1:  May Attorney, the sole shareholder of a professional corporation (PC) law practice, own the corporate stock jointly with Attorney’s Spouse or add Spouse as a separate shareholder?
Answer 1:  No. Under Rule 4-5.4, a lawyer cannot form a partnership for the practice of law with a nonlawyer who owns an interest in the firm, nor can a lawyer share legal fees with a nonlawyer.
Question 2: May attorney designate Spouse as a transfer on death (TOD) beneficiary of the stock?
Answer 2: Whether Attorney may designate Spouse as a TOD beneficiary of the PC’s stock is a question of law outside the scope of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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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