Frequently Asked Questions about Filing Trust Account Information
Why do I have to provide the bank and account number of my IOLTA account?
This information is required by Washington Supreme Court Rule for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct 15.5. It may be provided to the Legal Foundation of Washington so that they may verify that the bank is turning over all appropriate funds to the Foundation.
Do I also list other account numbers besides my IOLTA account?
No. Do not list individual client trust accounts or other non-IOLTA accounts.
What if I do not have a trust account now because I do not handle client funds, but I had one for part of this year or I expect to have one next year?
The trust account information question should be answered according to the facts as they exist on the date the information is certified. You do not need to report closed IOLTA accounts - only currently open accounts. You do not need to notify the WSBA if you open an IOLTA account midyear. You report only once a year.
Where can I get a Trust Account Information form?
You can complete the Trust Account Information during the online license renewal process at www.mywsba.org beginning in November or on the License Renewal form which is mailed in November. If you did not receive a License Renewal form and are not renewing online, please call 206-443-9722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Only Active lawyers are required to fill out the Trust Account Information.
Where is the authority requiring the Trust Account Information form?
Washington Supreme Court Rule for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct 15.5(a).
Must I file this information every year, even if it hasn't changed from last year?
Yes, It isn't sufficient to indicate that there has been no change from the previous year. Rule 15.5 of the Washington Supreme Court Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct requires each Active lawyer to file this information by the date specified annually. The information you provide needs to be current and complete, including your trust account information.
If I don't file the Trust Account Information, won't it be obvious I don't have a trust account?
No. If you fail to file the Trust Account Information, we do not assume that you do not maintain a trust account. Also, you may be subject to discipline.
Do I have to file the Trust Account Information if I'm not engaged in the practice of law?
Yes, you must file the Trust Account Information regardless of whether you are practicing law or have an IOLTA account.
Can my firm fill out my Trust Account Information for me?
If you are using the paper License Renewal form, instead of renewing online on mywsba, your firm may submit one letter with the account information (Institution, Branch & IOLTA Account Number) along with the firm’s License Renewal Forms. “See enclosure” should be written in the account information space of the Trust Account section and you must still answer Yes or No to the question in this section and fully sign the form
If I practice in multiple states or Canadian provinces, whose rules do I follow?
The WSBA Trust Account Information relates only to trust accounts maintained for the deposit of client funds received in connection with representations undertaken using your Washington license. All states and provinces have different requirements regarding safekeeping of client funds. When you receive client funds, you must analyze if you are holding these funds in connection with a representation where you are using your Washington license. If you are using your Washington license, then you must place these funds in an IOLTA account that meets the requirements of RPC 1.15A.
If you have IOLTA accounts in other states or Canadian provinces, you should not provide information regarding those accounts when filing your Washington Trust Account Information.
What if I have additional questions?
Call the WSBA Service Center at 800-945-WSBA (9722) or 206-443-WSBA (9722), or email email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions about Client Trust Accounts
What is a client trust account?
A client trust account is an account maintained at a bank, savings and loan, or credit union for the purpose of holding client funds. See Rule 1.15A of the Washington Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct for the lawyer's ethical obligations regarding handling client funds and Rule 1.15B for additional information about maintaining client trust accounts.
Does every lawyer need to have a client trust account?
No. A client trust account is required only if the lawyer handles client funds.
Client funds are funds in your or your law firm's possession that belong to your clients or third persons. These funds are received in connection with a representation for which you are required to use your Washington license. Examples of client funds are advance fee deposits, settlement proceeds, escrow funds, and client overpayments. Earned fees you receive are not client funds. If you receive only earned fees from clients, you should check that you do not handle client funds.
What is an IOLTA account?
IOLTA stands for Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts. An IOLTA account is a pooled, interest-bearing trust account for deposit of client funds that are so small in amount or that will be held for so short a time that they would not earn net interest that would be payable to the client.
What happens to the interest earned on an IOLTA account?
Interest on an IOLTA account is payable to the Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), a nonprofit organization that is independent from the WSBA. The Foundation administers grants to finance law-related projects, particularly the delivery of legal services to people who are indigent.
What is an "individual" client trust account?
An individual client trust account is an interest-bearing account set up for one client, where the interest goes to that client instead of the Legal Foundation of Washington. It is set up in the client's name using the client's tax ID number.
What if a lawyer is admitted in Washington and also in another state, and practices wholly or partly in that other state?
The Trust Account Information relates only to the practice of law under your Washington license. The Rules of Professional Conduct Committee has issued an informal opinion that if client funds come into a lawyer's possession as a result of the lawyer's practice under the lawyer's Washington license, then those funds should be handled as required by the Washington rules. Otherwise, the lawyer must comply with the rules of the jurisdiction in which he or she practices.
Where can I get more information about complying with the trust account rules?
Visit the IOLTA and Client Trust Accounts webpage.