FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
June 25, 1963
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.”
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.