What happens to my files if my attorney dies?
If your deceased attorney was part of a law firm or law partnership, that firm would maintain custody of your file.
If your deceased attorney was a sole practitioner, you will need to obtain new counsel. Generally, the executor or administrator of the attorney's estate is responsible for notifying clients and returning their files. In some instances, the local superior court may appoint a practice administrator to handle these duties.
In other instances, the deceased attorney's law practice may be sold to another member of the bar. (Such sales are governed by ethical limitations outlined in the Rules of Professional Conduct).
Finally, there are unfortunate instances in which an attorney dies leaving no responsible person in charge of the law practice. In those instances, the State Bar or local county bar associations may assist in winding down the law practice (after obtaining authorization from the Superior Court).
Your first step should be to contact the law offices of your deceased attorney to determine whether your file is available. If you are unsuccessful, you may contact the State Bar Office of Chief Trial Counsel: 800-843-9053