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Abstract 96/97-04

Summary of Facts Provided

Attorney represents a juvenile in a personal injury case which resulted in an out-of-court settlement. The settlement was approved by the probate court which ordered the proceeds to be placed in a trust account. The juvenile's parent, however, deposited half of the proceeds in the parent's personal account. When the attorney discovered this action, the parent promised the attorney that the parent would place the remaining proceeds in a trust account established for the juvenile within two weeks.

Issues and Conclusions

Is the attorney obligated to notify the probate court of the parent's action?

As an officer of the court, the attorney is obligated to inform the probate court of the parent's actions regarding the proceeds. See Colorado Rule 3.3. Furthermore, the lawyer, as a fiduciary, has an obligation to protect the child's interests. Colorado Rule 1.14 provides that a lawyer has the responsibility to determine the needs and wishes of a client when the client is under a disability. A lawyer representing a juvenile has "additional" responsibilities and may need to take "protective action" on behalf of the juvenile. These fiduciary obligations also require the lawyer to report the parent's misappropriation of the juvenile's funds to the probate court even if the parent may have hired the attorney and paid the attorney's fees. See Colorado Rules 1.2(d) and 3.3(a)(2).