If you are a lawyer assisting with closing or taking over the practice of a deceased attorney, this webpage contains guidance for you. If you are a client or family member of a deceased attorney, please see guidance on this webpage.
If a family member has not already done so, please notify the State Bar as soon as possible when an attorney dies. Please email AttorneyRegulation@calbar.ca.gov with the lawyer’s name and State Bar number.
If staff is unable to locate an online obituary, you may be contacted for additional information. When responding, please include either a photocopy of the death certificate or a link to a published obituary. There is no need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate.
To facilitate the return of client files, please provide any additional information, such as the location of client files and the names of any lawyers who have agreed to assist in closing the firm.
Staff will review available files and records to determine if information on wills or trusts has been received by the State Bar. Clients may be directed to the court for questions on wills or the county recorder for trust questions if the trust involved real property.
Closing a law practice following the death of a lawyer can pose many ethical challenges. The ethical duties and practical considerations can range from locating and securing client trust accounts to disposing of furniture and belongs. To make sure everything is handled properly, it's important to develop a plan with the help of online resources and your county and local bar associations.
You can also use checklists from sources like the California Lawyers Association and the State Bar to make sure all necessary tasks are completed in a timely manner. This information and guidance can be useful not only for the attorney themselves, but also for family members or other lawyers who may need to close the law practice. Please see these guidelines for closing a law practice.
California lawyers are encouraged to have a succession plan in place for the cessation of their law practice. While not all lawyers have a plan or have notified the State Bar of their plan, we maintain records that have been reported to us. For lawyers closing a law practice or successor counsel seeking documents and records, you may:
Closing or assuming a law practice can be a significant challenge. The State Bar has gathered resources to assist practitioners with meeting their ethical responsibilities and by offering practical solutions to problems you may not have considered.