Informal Opinion Number: 2017-05

Adoption Date: 2017

Rules: 4-5.4
Law Firms and Associations
Professional Independence of a Lawyer
Subject: Deceased Lawyer; Professional Independence of Lawyer
Summary: payment of lien of deceased lawyer

Question: Is Attorney permitted to pay an attorney’s lien filed on behalf of a lawyer, now deceased, where no estate has been opened for the deceased lawyer?
Answer: Rule 4-5.4(a) prohibits Attorney from sharing legal fees with a nonlawyer, with certain exceptions. A lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer a proportion of the fee that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer. Rule 4-5.4(a)(2). Where Attorney is not the lawyer who has undertaken to finish the business of the deceased lawyer, and where no estate has been opened for the deceased lawyer, Attorney may not share legal fees with someone claiming a right to a portion of the legal fees on behalf of the deceased lawyer.

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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