Unclaimed Client Funds Appropriated to OSB for Legal Services to the Poor

Mystery Money: The Ethics of Unclaimed Lawyer Trust Account Funds

Prior to 2010, abandoned client funds in a lawyer's trust account were turned over to the Department of State Lands (DSL). But amendments to the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (ORS 98.302 to 98.436) enacted by the 2009 Legislature changed how this money is appropriated and disbursed.

Effective January 1, 2010, unclaimed funds held in lawyer trust accounts must be reported to the Department of State Lands (DSL), but paid over to the Oregon State Bar with a copy of the DSL reports.

Effective July 1, 2021 per Senate Bill 454, Oregon’s Unclaimed Property and Estate Administration are now under the authority of the Oregon State Treasury.  The funds held in lawyer trust accounts must be reported to Oregon State Treasury, but paid over to the Oregon State Bar. 

It is highly recommended that you begin using online reporting. Reporting property online can be done by creating a manual report, you will need to register for an account.  Once you file the report online, print the report and then send the money and the form to the Oregon State Bar.   If online reporting is not working for you, you can find a fillable form called Lawyer Trust Account. More information is available at Reporting Lawyer Trust Accounts.

Remit Form and Payment to:
Unclaimed Funds
c/o J'Nell Adams
PO Box 231935
Tigard, OR 97281

Pursuant to ORS 98.332, funds held by a fiduciary (including a lawyer) are deemed abandoned if the owner has not accepted payment of the funds, corresponded in writing about the funds or otherwise indicated interest in the funds within two years after the funds are payable or distributable to the owner. Funds deemed abandoned as of June 30 of each year are to be reported to the Oregon State Treasury during the month of October of that same year. Keep in mind if the owner's last known address is in a different state those funds must be reported and sent to that state. The Oregon State Bar can’t accept money from other states and will send it back.

After funds are deemed abandoned, but before reporting to Oregon State Treasury or paying over funds to the OSB, lawyers must exercise due diligence to ascertain the whereabouts of the owner of the funds and to communicate with the owner. Lawyers must retain records of the name and last-known address of the owner of the funds as well as any other evidence which would assist in the identification of the owner for three years after the funds have been remitted.

The money paid to the bar under the act will be appropriated to the Legal Services program, which funds legal aid organizations that provide civil legal services to the poor statewide. Questions about forwarding abandoned funds can be addressed to J'Nell Adams at (503) 620-0222 x 386 or jadams@osbar.org.

See OSB Formal Ethics Op No 2005-48.