Trust Accounts

Attorneys routinely receive client funds, such as unearned retainers or settlements, which they place in financial institutions. Since the funds are being held for the benefit of the client, attorneys must place these funds in an account separate from their general operating account or any personal account.

Client trust accounts:

1. If the client funds will generate interest income sufficient to offset the expense of investing them in a separate account for the client (large sums of money or funds to be held for a long period of time), the attorney should invest the funds for the client. The same principle applies if the bank offers, and an attorney chooses to utilize, a sub-accounting product that creates separate interest-generating accounts for individual clients that are tied to one master account. The following diagram illustrates this basic concept.

Chart Illustrating funds going into Master Account

2. In 1984, the Supreme Court of Texas set up the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program to allow attorneys to pool short-term and nominal deposits into one account with the interest paid to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. As of July 1, 1989, all Texas attorneys who handle qualifying client funds must establish an IOLTA account.

Determine if you need an IOLTA account.

 

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