Bar Counsel Notes: Client Confidentiality

Attorney formerly represented Personal Representative 1 (PR1) regarding PR1's husband's estate. PR1 has recently died. PR2 is the son of PR1 and has now requested that Attorney provide PR2 with all file materials including fee bills re: Attorney's representation of PR1. Must Attorney provide all of those documents, or do any of them remain confidential after PR1's death?

Unless Attorney is firmly convinced that a document(s) concerning Attorney's representation of PR1 is no longer confidential, Attorney should refuse to provide any documents to PR2 under the client confidence rule, MRPC 1.6. In stating that refusal, Attorney may propose that PR2 seek to obtain an order from the applicable probate court. See Professional Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion #192.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.