Informal Opinion Number: 990217

Rules: 4-1.15
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Trust Accounts and Property of Others
Summary: trust account for dissolving law firm

Reference Note: Effective July 1, 2016, subdivision 4-1.15(f) of Rule 4 was repealed and a new subdivision 4-1.15(f) adopted in lieu thereof.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 is a shareholder in XYZ law firm, which is in the process of dissolving. After accounting for all known client claims to funds in the trust account, a sum still remains. An audit of the trust fund for the last five years reveals no outstanding sums due to clients. The supposition is that clients may have been paid amounts out of the firm´s regular account without reimbursement to the regular account from the trust account. What steps does the firm need to take before closing the trust account?
ANSWER: Unless Attorney can show where the funds were paid out of the firm´s operating account, it will be necessary for one or more of the attorneys who were in the firm to maintain the funds in a trust account. If the funds cannot be traced to a client or to the firm before the escheat statute becomes applicable, the funds will escheat to the state.

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