FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
February 18, 1975
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is improper to leave a deceased attorney’s files in the physical custody of the attorney who has
purchased the physical assets of the deceased attorney’s firm. It is also improper for the attorney
who has purchased the physical assets to send the clients a letter advising that he has possession
of the files and asking these clients what to do with them.
Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:
An attorney, now deceased, was the last surviving member of his law firm.
His executor has sold the building in which the law firm was located as well as
the firm’s library and physical assets to another attorney.
We are asked:
1. Whether it is proper to leave the deceased attorney’s files in the physical
custody of the attorney who has purchased the physical assets of the old firm.
2. Whether the attorney who has purchased the physical assets may properly
send letters to the clients of the deceased attorney advising that he has possession
of their files and asking these clients to let him know what to do with them.
The Committee is of the opinion that both questions should be answered in the negative.
The files may contain privileged or confidential information. The attorney purchasing the
physical assets has no relationship as an attorney with any of the former firm’s clients and should
have nothing to do with the safekeeping of their files even as an accommodation. The Committee
believes that the attorney for the executor should advise the executor to arrange for safekeeping
of the files, and to notify clients of the former firm of the death of the last surviving partner,
stating that they may pick up their files or have them sent to attorneys of their choice.
A communication from the attorney purchasing the physical assets to the clients of the
old firm presents the danger of solicitation or the appearance thereof.