Informal Opinion Number: 960202

Rules: 1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Safekeeping Property
Summary: funds of dissolved corporate client

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof.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 received funds from the State Abandoned Property Division indicating that the funds were garnishment proceeds from a collection action Attorney handled. Attorney´s client is a corporation which has since dissolved and no successors can be located. Part of the funds would be payable to Attorney under the contingent fee contract.

ANSWER: Attorney´s firm must hold the client´s funds in a trust account until a representative of the client, or other person with a legal claim to the funds, can be found. If no such person is found, the funds will eventually, once again, escheat to the state. The portion of the funds which represent Attorney´s fee may be disbursed to the firm if it is clear under a written contingent fee contract that Attorney´s firm is entitled to the funds. Because it is anticipated that Attorney will hold the funds for an extended period of time, Attorney should hold them in a separate, interest bearing account. The account should not be an IOLTA account. The interest should go to the person or people who ultimately receive the funds or it should escheat with the remainder of the funds. Attorney has an ongoing duty to make reasonable efforts to distribute the funds to the appropriate person or people.

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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