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Clients who won’t cash their retainer refund checks?

I withdrew from a case on a family law matter back in Octobe midwestlaw03/22/18
I resolve this issue by issuing a cashier's check, and sendi guyingorillasuit03/22/18
In my state you're supposed to keep trying for a year and th onehell03/22/18
midwestlaw (Mar 22, 2018 - 2:24 pm)

I withdrew from a case on a family law matter back in October. The client was flaky and wouldn’t respond to reminders to replenish her retainer before a hearing and never even made the full retainer deposit having just given me a check of $1000 when the fee agreement specified $1500. She promised to bring the rest in a week and I never pushed it since finances were an issue for her obviously.

I finally had to withdraw because in addition to not meeting her financial obligations the client wasn’t following court orders and having mental health or substance abuse evaluations completed and it was making me look bad as well.

I ended up filing a withdrawal and returned her money by check. I figured returning her remaining $500 was nicer than billing against it until nothing was left and then withdrawing.

It’s been six months and she hasn’t cashed it. Makes no sense to me because for someone needing money you’d think it would be cashed promptly.

She doesn’t response to phone, email or postal mail reminders to cash her check. The check is almost stale and I don’t want to deal with the headache of navigating how to submit the money to state unclaimed funds.

Does anyone have these issues with clients not claiming their own money? What’s going on here?

I’m worried this signals a bar complaint or lawsuit or am I overthinking?

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guyingorillasuit (Mar 22, 2018 - 5:27 pm)

I resolve this issue by issuing a cashier's check, and sending it to the client's last known address. Of course, I follow up with an email saying: "Dear Bob, as discussed, I am mailing you a cashier's check to 1234 Main St." This way, there's a record of when the check was issued, and if the client never cashes it, it's their own fault. I did not do anything the State Bar can fault me for, as far as I know.

If the client calls and says "Sorry - I moved from 1234 Main St to 6789 Side St", I cancel the old cashier's check, and mail a new one to the new address.

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onehell (Mar 22, 2018 - 5:51 pm)

In my state you're supposed to keep trying for a year and then deposit the funds with the state unclaimed property office, which publishes the names of potential beneficiaries for a certain period of time and if no claim is filed within that time, the money escheats to the state. Basically, a lawyer's trust account is just that, a trust. That makes the lawyer a trustee subject to the same unclaimed property laws as any other trustee. At least, that was the bar's interpretation in my state.

You might want to check with the bar and your state's unclaimed property division.

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