The Florida Bar

June 25, 1963

The length of time a lawyer's files should be maintained depends largely on the importance of a file's contents. If the client is available, he should be requested to pick up the contents or authorize the attorney to dispose of the material. There is no obligation to invest funds of clients who cannot be located, but they should be deposited in a trust account where they would be insured and draw interest. When a settlement was effectuated on behalf of a wife, and both husband and wife executed the release, it is doubtful that it would be proper to issue a check to the wife alone.

Note: See Rule 5-1.1(f) regarding "Unidentifiable Trust Fund Accumulations and Trust Funds Held for Missing Owners."

Canons: 11, 37

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

The Professional Ethics Committee has considered the matters presented by a member of The Florida Bar relative to disposal of old files and other matters.

With regard to the disposal of files, we believe that the length of time a file should be maintained depends largely on the contents of the file itself. However, if it is desired to dispose of a file, we believe that the client should be notified and asked to pick up the material or give authority to dispose of it in case there is any question. Where the client is not available, we believe it desirable to check the file for certainty that no important papers are being disposed of before destroying them.

As to funds held on behalf of a client who cannot be located, we find no obligation to invest the funds, but believe it would be advisable to deposit the same in a trust account in the name of the client, with the lawyer as trustee, with some bank or savings and loan association where the funds would be insured and would draw interest.

With regard to the third question, we are somewhat in doubt as to the propriety of issuing a check solely to the wife because, if the husband had some interest in the funds, he might thereby be precluded.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]