Informal Opinion Number: 2020-14

Adoption Date: 2020

Rules: 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Safekeeping Property
Subject: Trust Accounts and Safekeeping Property
Summary: payment of lawyer's business or personal expenses from trust account

QUESTION: Once Attorney has earned a fee or paid an expense such that funds in the trust account belong to Attorney, may Attorney pay personal or firm expenses directly from the trust account?

ANSWER: No. A trust account is not to be used to pay a lawyer’s personal or business expenses. See In re Coleman, 295 S.W.3d 857, 866 (Mo. banc 2009); see also In re Ehler, 319 S.W.3d 442, 450-451 (Mo. banc 2010). Once funds are “good funds” per Rule 4-1.15(a)(6) and Comment [5], any funds belonging to Attorney should be transferred reasonably promptly from the trust account to Attorney’s personal or business account. Rule 4-1.15(a) and (c) and Comment [6]. Only then may Attorney use the funds for personal or business expenses. In re Coleman, 295 S.W.3d at 866.

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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