Lawyers are required to account to a client for any money held in trust for the client's benefit. Sometimes a lawyer is unable to locate a client, so trust money remains unclaimed.

The lawyer will try to track down the rightful owners of funds left behind. However, because of moves, name changes, deaths and other reasons, it is sometimes not possible to locate people to whom the money should be returned.

Examples of unclaimed trust money include retainer money left over in a trust account, payments to court that are later reimbursed, late reimbursements for estate taxes or late payments from the purchase or sale of a house.

What happens to unclaimed trust funds?

A lawyer who has held funds in a trust account on behalf of a person who cannot be located for two years may pay the money to the Law Society. The Law Society will try to find the owner of the funds or his or her heirs.

If the owner cannot be found within five years, the money will be paid to the Law Foundation of BC (a non-profit organization that provides funding for legal aid, legal education, law libraries and similar programs) with the understanding that all valid claims for return of trust money will be honoured.