Q: Do attorneys have to keep your files for a certain amount of time? What if they had something they never gave you?
Our attorney received a title in 2007 directly from another attorney and never gave it to us. He now says he no longer has the file.
A: Since you asked the question under the heading of real estate law, I presume that the "title" is a deed conveying an interest in a parcel of real estate. Lawyers are not required to keep files indefinitely. The best practice for lawyers is to set forth their file retention policy in their retainer agreements. You should check you retainer agreement to see what it says.
If I am correct that the "title" is a deed, you should be able to get a copy of the recorded document from the Register of Deeds office in the county where the property is located for a nominal charge.
A: Most attorneys maintain most types of files for six years. Some matters, such as wills and trusts, should be maintained indefinitely. Attorneys also have a duty to safeguard client property and clients have a right to their file and their property.
A: Check your written fee agreement with the Attorney to see how long it says they will retain your file. The amount of time they hold your file after a matter is closed varies from firm to firm. Ten years is a standard amount of time to hold a file, after which an attorney may destroy it at their option. Some firms hold files longer, some firms hold it for a shorter period. As the other lawyers have pointed out, if it is a copy of the deed that you need, you can obtain a copy from the register of deeds where the deed was filed.
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