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What should I do if my lawyer is incapacitated and unable to practice law?

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to protect their clients’ information, especially since those documents can contain private or sensitive information. But what happens if your lawyer dies, is disbarred, or is in some way unable to practice law? 

Under Supreme Court of Missouri Rule 5.26, a lawyer can appoint a trustee to handle storing or disposing of client information if that lawyer is suspended, disbarred, disappears, or dies. It is recommended that lawyers appoint trustees before the unexpected happens to help with transitions. 

If you know your lawyer assigned a trustee before your lawyer became incapacitated, contact the trustee with questions about your legal documents. 

If you are unsure if your lawyer assigned a trustee, contact the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel at 573-635-7400. 

If your lawyer did not assign a trustee before becoming incapacitated, you can contact the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel.  

If the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel believes a lawyer has become incapacitated and a trustee should be appointed, the office can petition the circuit court in the jurisdiction the lawyer operated in to have a trustee appointed. Once the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel or the court selects a trustee, the court can issue an order appointing the trustee. 

A trustee decides whether to take on the lawyer’s legal cases or to return files to clients. A trustee may also audit to gain access to the incapacitated lawyer’s trust account to see if there is client money remaining. 

If you do not want the trustee handling your legal files, it is your responsibility to transfer those documents to a different lawyer.  

To learn more about a lawyer’s duty to their clients and the client-attorney relationship, visit MissouriLawyersHelp.org to view, download or order a copy of The Missouri Bar’s Client Resource Guide