Escheat of Trust Funds
Opinion rules that trust funds must be held at least five years after the last occurrence of certain prescribed events before they may be deemed abandoned.
Editors Note: This opinion was originally published as RPC 89 (Revised).
Where a lawyer receives money in trust from a client who subsequently disappears and cannot thereafter be located by the lawyer upon due inquiry, how long must the lawyer retain the deposited funds in his or her trust account before deeming the money abandoned and paying the money into the escheat fund pursuant to the provisions of Rule 10.2(H) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and G.S. §116 (b)-18?
Rule 10.2(H) requires that property held in trust for an owner whose identity is known but who cannot be located must be deemed abandoned and paid to the state treasurer in compliance with the requirements of Chapter 116(b) of the General Statutes if, during the five-year period immediately preceding, the fund's principal has not increased, the owner has not accepted payment of principal or income, the owner has not corresponded in writing and the owner has not otherwise indicated an interest in the account as evidenced by a memorandum or other record on file with the lawyer. If any of the four events enumerated above have occurred during the five-year period immediately preceding, no abandonment will be deemed to have occurred and the client's funds must continue in the lawyer's trust. By the same token, whenever any of the four enumerated events occurs, a new five-year period begins to run during which the lawyer is obligated to maintain the property in trust and after which the property must be deemed abandoned, if none of the four enumerated events has occurred in the meantime. See also G.S. §116B-13.5, concerning voluntary early delivery of funds.