Legal Ethics Opinion #1519

Termination of Representation: Delivery of Will Drafted For
Deceased Client

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a client
requested an attorney to prepare a will.  The attorney prepared
the will; however, the client died before he was able to execute
the will.  The deceased client's executrix under another will has
requested that the attorney deliver the unexecuted will to the
executrix, claiming that the unexecuted will is the property of
the deceased client's estate.  The deceased client's estate has
paid for the will. 

You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of
the inquiry, the attorney should deliver the unexecuted will to
the executrix as property of the estate or decline to do so on
the basis that the will is a client confidence.

The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rule related to your
inquiry is DR 2-l08(D) which requires, in pertinent part, that,
upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take
reasonable steps for the continued protection of a client's
interests, including delivering all papers and property to which
the client is entitled.

Since the committee has consistently opined that, where no fees
are owed, the client owns the complete contents of his file.  SeeLEOs #1366, 1176, ll7l.  Therefore, the committee opines that the
file, including the unexecuted will, must be returned to the
deceased client's personal representative.  

Committee Opinion
May 11, 1993