What to Do if Your Attorney Dies

Hi, my name is Zach Parry, an attorney with Parry & Pfau, and I’m going to be answering the question, “What happens if your attorney dies?” Hopefully you haven’t googled this after your attorney died, and I happen to be your attorney. But, regardless of who your attorney is, there a few things you should know.

Number 1, it largely depends on the type of case you have, which attorney is handling your case, the size of the attorney’s firm, because it may very well be that your attorney has other attorneys in his firm working on the case with you.

If you’re at a larger firm, the partner—partner dies, there’s probably an associate or two who have been working on your case and know just as much about the case, so it’ll be a fairly easy transition to have another partner oversee it. So you’ll want to talk to the firm that you’ve retained and figure out of this is something they feel comfortable handling, if you feel comfortable with them continuing to handle it, and you can make your decision from there. And if you do continue to use the same firm it should be a fairly smooth transition.

With some smaller firms that might be a little more difficult, but again, talk to the firm. If this is a sole practitioner obviously there’s no one left in the firm to handle your case, but if it’s a firm with a handful of attorneys, other attorneys there may be familiar with the case and may be comfortable taking it over. So in that circumstance where you find that either you’re not comfortable having the firm continue with your case, or there is no attorney there to take over the case, then you have different a scenario, and in that case you want to get your file as quickly as you can from the firm.

It does belong to you, so all the documents that they’ve prepared you have a right to as long as you’re paid up on your bill to the firm. So make sure you’ve paid your bill, and then they have to give that to you. And then you’re going to want to get another attorney as soon as you can.

Now depending on what the status of your case is—of your case—like if you’re in litigation you’ll want to let the court know. And hopefully the law firm that you are no longer with can at least file notice to the court that your attorney has passed away and the court will more than likely give you time—push back any deadlines that may be pending—so that you can find a new attorney.

If you—if you’re having trouble finding a new attorney you can go to the state bar, you can ask your old attorney for a referral—hopefully won’t be too difficult to find an attorney. If for some reason you have problems with your old attorney—the firm won’t give you your file back or there’s some dispute about the billing then also it’s a good idea to talk to your local bar.