Informal Opinion Number: 960125

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Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof.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.

QUESTION: Attorney was hired by a woman to represent her in a modification action. The woman´s current husband also signed the contract with Attorney. The woman and her husband obtained the advance fee payment from her husband´s relatives. The representation is over. The client has asked that the unused funds be refunded to her. The relatives have requested that the unused funds be refunded to them. ANSWER: Attorney may not refund the fee to Attorney´s client or her in-laws as long as both are claiming an interest in those funds. Attorney should notify both that Attorney can pay out the funds in the manner they jointly authorize if they reach an agreement. Attorney may not represent either of them in the process of reaching an agreement, but Attorney may facilitate communications. If they do not reach an agreement within a reasonable time, Attorney must file an interpleader action regarding the funds. Attorney should notify Attorney´s client and her in-laws of Attorney´s intention to do this in advance and of the possibility that the costs of the interpleader action will diminish the eventual refund.

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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