Informal Opinion Number: 930137

Rules: 1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Safekeeping Property

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof. This opinion is based on Rule 4-1.15 in effect prior to that date.

Reference Note:  Rule 4-1.15 was amended, effective July 1, 2013.  This opinion is based on the rule in effect prior to that date.  Please see the July 1, 2013 version of Rule 4-1.15(e).

QUESTION: Attorney’s client has failed to respond to correspondence over several years. Attorney’s accountant says Attorney must now open a separate account for the funds held or report the money as Attorney’s own income. What should Attorney do? ANSWER: Under Rule 4-1.15, Attorney must not treat the funds as income. The funds must be held in a trust account. From the perspective of Rule 4-1.15, it does not matter whether the funds are held in a general office trust account such as an IOLTA account, or a separate trust account unless the funds are a substantial amount. However, the funds should not be held in a separate account if the expenses associated with maintaining the separate account will reduce the funds available to the client.

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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