In the Event of Death or Disability…

As part of your own planning, don’t forget that, as an attorney, you should designate someone to administer your practice if you are suddenly unable to do so. Your death or disability could leave your family members to deal with many tricky issues around your practice, including what happens to client files and funds on deposit in a trust account. Don’t worry though, these problems can be avoided easily and for free with the use of a surrogacy agreement, recently approved by the California State Bar Board of Governors.

State Bar President Bill Hebert — the first to use the new “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future”(.pdf) — told the California Bar Journal that

the prudent lawyer should consider succession planning and spell out how your practice should be maintained, with public protection of paramount importance.

The sample agreement lists surrogate duties, including the ability to open mail, become a signatory on bank accounts, notify clients and transfer files, pay bills and handle funds, and accept the original attorney’s clients and cases.

The agreement also includes a duty for the original attorney, i.e., to notify all clients in engagement letters that a successor attorney has been designated.

For a complete guide to the critical succession planning every attorney should do, go to CEB’s new book Business Succession Planning: Strategies for California Estate Planners and Business Attorneys, chap 17 (Cal CEB 2010).

© The Regents of the University of California, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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