What are attorney trust accounts?

A lawyer trust account is a special bank account in which client funds are kept safe until it's time to withdraw them. Whether it's known as a client's fund account or a lawyer's trust account, using a lawyer trust account is a good business idea for lawyers who have money, such as an advance (or any other money) on behalf of a client for their case. And there are lawyer trust accounting guidelines that every lawyer should understand and follow. Keep money that is not yours in a separate account so you don't spend it accidentally.

This includes unearned charges (usually paid as an advance), settlement funds or anticipated costs and court fees. In some states it's impossible to practice without having a trust account, so the first thing you should do is open a. However, keep in mind that opening a separate checking account is not enough. When you open a lawyer trust account, also known as an IOLTA account, you must be explicitly designated as such with your bank.

Since not all financial institutions are familiar with trust accounts, it may not always be a simple process. Because IOLTA accounts are much less common than traditional current accounts, not all bankers open them on a regular basis. If you are an attorney in private practice in the state of Maryland, you must place all trust funds from eligible clients in an IOLTA account. Your escrow accounts and banking relationships will remain the same, and Maryland Legal Services Corporation will pay reasonable and customary service charges to your IOLTA escrow account.

Lawyer trust accounts are critical to ensuring that money that clients or third parties give to lawyers is kept safe and is not combined with law firm funds or misused. Having these documents handy will be useful for trust reconciliations and annual Trustee Report requirements. In some jurisdictions, it is not required to deposit clients' funds into an attorney's trust account, while in others, lawyers may deposit funds directly into the law firm's operating account, provided that the funds have already been earned. Smokeball's legal billing software is compatible with IOLTA trust accounts, but it's important for lawyers to pay close attention to the rules that govern the jurisdiction in which they work.

But the rules about what money can be combined or kept can become complex, so if there is any doubt about where the client's funds should go, putting them in a lawyer trust account is the smartest decision. While trust accounting seems like a relatively straightforward concept, keeping track of customer trusts can be tricky if you manage accounts for multiple clients. Fortunately, there are legal billing software solutions like Smokeball that provide trust account accounting so there is never a question about how much money a customer has in their trust account. Your fellow lawyers must submit individual compliance information, stating the name of the IOLTA reporting attorney and the law firm, but they do not need to report account information.

In addition, these trust funds do not bear interest because it is unethical for lawyers to derive any financial benefit from the funds belonging to their clients. Most importantly, the specific legal accounting software takes into account the specific rules of fiduciary accounting, making it easy to track, collect and reconcile all funds in your clients' trust accounts, providing guarantees to ensure that funds are considered earned before removing them. Lawyers who go on strike on their own, whether as newly minted bar members or as veteran lawyers hanging their own shingle, will have to deal with a frustrating obstacle course of bar rules. However, IOLTA, which stands for “interest in attorneys' trust accounts,” allowed lawyers to place funds in interest-bearing trust accounts.

The statute of the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust requires real estate title companies to place their trust funds from small or short-term clients that are held in escrow in a MAHT account that earns interest on affordable housing. A legal trust accounting tool like Clio that has security measures in place to give you peace of mind about trust transactions will help your company scale. When creating a new trust account, ask your financial institution to provide trust account statements at the end of the reporting period. .


Katherine Moretto
Katherine Moretto

Avid pop culture nerd. Infuriatingly humble web guru. Certified food maven. General coffee fan. Passionate zombie enthusiast. Amateur baconaholic.

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