Trust accounts

A lawyer's privilege of holding a client's money or valuable property in trust requires strict compliance with the Legal Profession Act, the Society's Regulations and the Code of Professional Conduct.

It is a significant responsibility for lawyers to hold client funds and property. As part of its mandate to protect the public, the Society holds lawyers accountable for properly dealing with all client funds and property held in trust.

Opening a trust account

A lawyer must obtain authorization from the Society prior to opening a trust account. Steps required for this authorization include:

  • successfully completing the Society’s Trust Account Examination,
  • signing a Lawyer’s Certification, and
  • submitting an Accountant Certification.

For a copy of the Society’s trust account opening package, contact the Administrator, Education & Credentials. Please direct any questions about the examination or necessary documents to the Officer, Education & Credentials.

The Trust Account Examination was developed to test a lawyer’s knowledge and ability to apply the requirements of the Society’s Trust Account Regulations. The examination takes into consideration the competencies a lawyer should demonstrate in order to operate a trust account. Review the competencies here. Administered through an online platform, the examination includes multiple choice questions and a simulation question. Lawyers have seven days to complete the examination.

The Lawyer’s Certification confirms the lawyer has read and reviewed the Legal Profession Act and the regulations relating to trust accounts. It further confirms the lawyer has completed the trust examination without assistance from any other person. Lawyers must also undertake to provide the details of their trust account(s) to the Society.

The Accountant Certification must be completed by a public accountant licensed by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Nova Scotia. This certification confirms that the necessary accounting systems have been put in place to comply with the trust regulations.

After lawyers have successfully completed the Trust Account Examination and submitted the Lawyer’s Certification and Accountant’s Certification, they will receive a confirmation email from the Society permitting them to open their trust account. After opening the account, the lawyer is required to provide the particulars of their trust account(s) to Officer, Database Administration.

Annual requirements

All practising lawyers are required to report on their involvement with trust accounts on an annual basis. This reporting takes the form of either a Declaration in the Matter of Trust Funds or the longer Trust Account Report (working copy, .pdf).

Undistributed trust funds

To assist members in the management of their trust accounts and, upon sufficient demand, the Society will make a Chambers Application to turn over undistributable trust funds to the Public Trustee of Nova Scotia. Information on this process and a copy of a Solicitor's Affidavit can be found in the Application for Disposal of Undistributed Trust Funds (Procedure and Sample Documents).

Trust Account Regulations (Part 10 of Regulations under the LPA)

Audits

The Society operates a primarily risk-based Trust Account Audit Program. This provides for audits of the trust accounts of selected lawyers and law firms, conducted by an accountant retained by the Society throughout the year. Those who are audited receive copies of the audit reports and the Society follows up with lawyers respecting all audit recommendations. Information respecting trends and concerns gleaned annually from the audits informs the Society’s education and other resources provided to lawyers and firms.

Winding up

Lawyer winding up their practices cannot change category or resign until their trust account is closed. In addition to dealing with the distribution of funds in the trust account, lawyers must complete and file their final trust account report and accountant’s report.

If you have any questions about winding up a trust account, contact the Administrator, Professional Responsibility.