Trust Accounts

You often have to provide a retainer (payment in advance) when you hire a lawyer. The lawyer must deposit that money in a bank account called a trust account. The lawyer will then withdraw from the account as work is done for you and billed to you. Any unused funds will be returned to you when the work is complete.

Interest earned on most trust accounts is paid to the Law Foundation of British Columbia, a non-profit foundation created by legislation in 1969. Only the interest on funds held in a lawyer's pooled trust account maintained in financial institutions goes to the Law Foundation. This interest goes toward funding of such initiatives as legal education, legal research, legal aid, law reform and law libraries.

l If you wish to receive interest on funds you pay a lawyer in trust, you must give specific instructions to place the funds in other than a pooled trust account. You would then be responsible for any taxes that may be due based on this interest.

What to do if you believe a lawyer has money belonging to you

If you believe you have left money with a lawyer, contact the lawyer. If your money has been unclaimed for more than two years or you are unable to find the lawyer, contact the Law Society. There is no time limit for claiming trust funds.

How to apply for unclaimed trust funds

Step 1 Contact the lawyer

Step 2 Contact the Law Society if your money has been unclaimed for more than two years or you cannot find the lawyer. You will need documents proving your identity and supporting your claim. If you are an heir or are making a claim in a representative capacity, you will need appropriate documentation of your status or authority.

Trust protection coverage

You may be eligible for compensation if a lawyer has stolen money or property from you. For more information, see Compensation: Claims for lawyer theft.

Other resources

Unclaimed money with banks or other organizations

If you believe you have money with a bank, trust company or similar organization, here are some links that may help you locate the funds: