Informal Opinion Number: 2018-01

Adoption Date: 2018

Rules: 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Trust Accounts and Property of Others
Subject: Deceased Client; Trust Accounts and Safekeeping Property
Summary: funds of deceased client

Question: Attorney is holding in a trust account funds belonging to a client who is now deceased. What should Attorney do with the funds?
Answer: Attorney must hold the funds in the trust account, make reasonable efforts to determine when an estate is opened, and then distribute the funds to the deceased client’s estate. If no estate is opened, Attorney may consider whether applicable law permits the opening of an estate to allow for distribution of the funds. If no estate can be opened, or if the amount of the former client’s funds is insufficient to justify the opening of an estate, and if disbursement cannot otherwise be made in accordance with other law or court order, Attorney should follow the procedure in Formal Opinion 118, which directs Attorney to proceed in accordance with Missouri’s Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.

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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