Trust Accounts

As part of its mandate to protect the public, we hold lawyers accountable for properly dealing with all client funds and property held in trust. Find the current Trust Account Regulations under Part 10 of the Regulations.

Opening a Trust Account 

A lawyer must obtain authorization from the Society prior to opening and operating a trust account.  

Steps required for trust account authorization: 

  • Review Regulation 4.10 “Operating a Trust Account”; 
  • If required, successfully complete the Society’s Trust Account Assessment
  • Confirm that appropriate arrangements, in writing, have been made with the financial institution to comply with the requirements of Section 30 of the Act; and 
  • Submit a Lawyer’s Certification. 

To receive a copy of the Society’s trust account opening package and a link to the online assessment, contact the Trust Assurance Administrator, Mhairi McInnis at mmcinnis@nsbs.org.

After opening the account, the lawyer is required to provide the particulars of their trust account(s) to the Society’s Trust Assurance Administrator.  

After lawyers have successfully completed the requirements for operating a trust account, they will receive a confirmation email from the Society permitting them to operate their trust account.  

Trust Account Assessment 

The Society developed the Trust Account Assessment to assess a lawyer’s knowledge and ability to apply the requirements of the Trust Account Regulations. The assessment takes into consideration the competencies a lawyer should demonstrate to operate a trust account.  

The assessment is administered through an online platform and includes multiple-choice questions and a simulation question. Lawyers have seven days to complete the Assessment. 

Contact the Society’s Trust Assurance Administrator Mhairi McInnis at mmcinnis@nsbs.org for a link to the online trust account assessment.  

Trust Account Competencies

The Trust Account Assessment takes into consideration the competencies a lawyer should demonstrate to operate a trust account.  

1. Opening Accounts for a legal practice 

1.1   Demonstrate understanding: 

  • 1.1.1 of the difference between a Trust account, Service Nova Scotia trust account and General Account 
  • 1.1.2 of the meaning “trust property” (1.1.1(dd)) 
  • 1.1.3 of the meaning of “trust money” (1.1.1 (cc)) 
  • 1.1.5 the rules for naming a Trust account (10.5.2)
  • 1.1.6 the requirement for a Trust account (10.2.4) 
  • 1.1.7 how service charges should be addressed 

1.2   Outline the Trust Account Opening Process 

  • 1.2.1 Identify who must be contacted to open a Trust Account 
  • 1.2.2 Identify the requirements that must be met to open a Trust Account 
  • 1.2.3 Explain the trust account opening process 

2. Managing Trust Accounts

2.1   Deposits 

  • 2.1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of what should be deposited in a Trust account (10.2.1) 
  • 2.1.2 Identify the requirements for handling cash over $7500.00 (4.12) 
  • 2.1.3 Demonstrate an understanding that only trust money can be deposited and held in a Trust account (10.2.6, 10.2.7) 
  • 2.1.4 Identify the timing related to the deposit of trust funds (10.2.3) 
  • 2.1.5 Explain how the receipt of items in trust is documented (10.4.2 (a)) 
  • 2.1.6 Explain how trust funds being held for more than 30 days are to be handled 
  • 2.1.7 Describe the duty to supervise (10.2.10) 

2.2     Withdrawals 

  • 2.2.1  Identify that all withdrawals must be to a named payee (10.3.5(a)) 
  • 2.2.2  Explain the requirements for the authorization of the withdrawal of trust funds (10.3.5) 
  • 2.2.4  Identify the requirements for electronic fund transfers 
  • 2.2.5 Demonstrate an understanding of the manner in which trust funds cannot be withdrawn (10.3.6) 

3. Maintaining Records

3.1   Required Records 

  • 3.1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the required books and ledgers for a trust account (10.4.2 (a), (b), (c), (j) and (i)) 
  • 3.1.2 Demonstrate an understanding of the required records for trust property (10.4.2(d)) 
  • 3.1.3 Demonstrate an understanding of the required records for a general account (10.4.2 (e) and (f)) 
  • 3.1.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the required records for billings and other charges to clients (10.4.2(g)) 

3.2     Maintenance of Records 

  • 3.2.1 Explain what records must be retained 
  • 3.2.2 Identify how long records must be retained (10.4.1 (c)) 
  • 3.2.3 Demonstrate an understanding of when records should be updated (10.4.1.(b)) 
  • 3.2.4 Perform record-keeping in a simple set of manual trust books of account 
  • 3.2.5 Perform a simply bank reconciliation 
  • 3.2.6 Prepare a list of client trust ledger balances from a simple set of manual trust books of account 
  • 3.2.7 Review all records prepared by others 

4. Working with an SNS Trust Account

4.1   Demonstrate understanding of: 

  • 4.1.1 the purpose of a SNS trust account (10.5.3 and 10.5.4) 
  • 4.1.2 how a SNS trust account is named (10.5.2) 
  • 4.1.3 what funds can be deposited to a SNS trust account 
  • 4.1.4 the requirement to deposit recording fees and deed transfer tax funds in trust 
  • 4.1.5 the process for the withdrawal of funds for the SNS trust account (10.5.5 – 10.5.13) 
  • 4.1.6 the authority to delegate (10.5.14) 

4.2   Maintenance of Records 

  • 4.2.1 List the records to be printed and reviewed (10.5.9 – 10.5.12) 
  • 4.2.2 Identify which records must be retained (10.5.13) 

5. Reporting and Addressing Errors

5.1    Demonstrate an understanding of 

  • 5.1.1 the definition of an overdraft (10.1.1(f)) 
  • 5.1.2 the  requirement  to  maintain  sufficient  balances  in  trust  to  meet  all  trust obligations and to address overdrafts immediately (10.6.1) 
  • 5.1.3 the requirement to report and provide a full explanation of applicable overdrafts immediately to the Executive Director of the Society (10.6.3) 
  • 5.1.4 the need to correct errors without delay (10.6.2) 

5.2   Identifying and Addressing Overdrafts 

  • 5.2.2 Explaining the process to rectify overdrafts 

6. Audits/Investigations 

6.1   Investigation Process 

  • 6.1.1 Identify who can initiate an investigation/audit (10.7.1) 
  • 6.1.2 Explain when an investigation/audit can be initiated (10.7.2) 
  • 6.1.3 Demonstrate an understanding of what documents must be produced (10.7.4) 
  • 6.1.4 Explain the overall investigation/audit process (10.7.5 and 10.7.6) 
  • 6.1.5 Demonstrate an understanding of the ramifications of non-compliance (10.7.7) 

Lawyer’s Certification 

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 Account Assessment without assistance from any other person. Lawyers must also provide the Society with details of their trust account(s).  

Closing a Trust Account 

Upon closing a general trust account, the practicing lawyer or law firm must immediately give written notice to the Society’s Executive Director. 

Lawyer(s) closing 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. 

Annual Reporting Requirements 

All practising lawyers are required to report annually on their involvement with trust accounts. 

Practising lawyers or law firms operating one or more general trust accounts must submit a trust account report to the Society’s Executive Director annually by March 31 and submit an accountant’s report annually by March 31.  

Annual Reporting Requirements Forms & Resources:  

FAQs Guidance for Old Trust Balances

Why should you deal with old trust balances in a timely manner?

Old trust balances are a beast. Nobody likes dealing with them. They take time away from productive activities. It is frustrating to “get your head back into” an old file only to discover you can’t find the client or something is missing which prevents an easy solution.

In an ideal world, lawyer trust accounts would not hold any funds older than a year. The world is not ideal, and things happen; however, every firm should have a process for limiting your exposure by eliminating old balances.

Further, each individual lawyer in a firm is now required to pay out money held in a trust account as soon as practicable upon completion of the legal services to which the money relates (Regulations 10.2.9.1 and 10.2.9.2).

What is an old trust balance?

Old trust balances are funds held in trust for which the purpose of the trust cannot be fulfilled for some reason. The risk to you or your client is elevated by virtue of the passage of time.

You should devote time to examining and clearing them quickly before it gets harder to do so or a problem develops. Old balances include, but are not limited to:

Funds held back for recording a mortgage release (more than 180 days from the closing date of the transaction).

  • Escrow funds where the terms of escrow have not been fulfilled upon completion of the legal services.
  • Builder’s Lien holdbacks that have not yet been paid into court after an undischarged lien was filed and you have completed the legal services for the client.
  • Any funds for filing, registering or recording a document that is in your possession or control but have failed to file, register or record.
  • Funds held back for CRA liabilities where no steps have been taken to determine the balance owing to CRA.
  • Retainer funds for a client with whom the law firm has lost contact
  • Any funds due to a client that has not been disbursed in a timely manner.

What is the problem with carrying old balances?

Old balances are a risk and problematic for you and for your client(s):

  • You can only pay into or withdraw from a trust account money related to legal services that you or your firm is providing. Further, you must pay out trust money as soon as practicable upon completion of legal services. If you have old balances, chances are that legal services have long been completed.
  • An account holding old trust funds is a known temptation for theft: for lawyers, staff and bank staff. You leave yourself vulnerable. You must be aware that if a staff member steals trust money, the loss is unlikely to be covered by the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Compensation and is not insured through LIANS. You will be responsible for the loss unless you have purchased specific insurance for this purpose.
  • The funds probably belong to someone, not the firm or the lawyer.
  • Human nature: you are less likely to pay attention to old balances as time passes. This prevents you from closing your file and makes it harder to deal with later because you forget things.
  • If you are suddenly unable to practice due to suspension, disability or death, old balances are very difficult for a successor in practice to resolve.
  • They are a serious barrier for your retirement from the practice of law, especially for solo and small firms: nobody else will want to deal with old balances, so finding a successor may be difficult, if not impossible.
  • They are an administrative burden – old balances cost you money, time, and stress.

Can I just bill old/stale trust balances?

While it seems like an easy solution, and maybe even a fair one if you’ve been put through a lot of trouble, it usually is not the right way to resolve an old trust balance.
It is appropriate to bill from an old balance only when:

  • There is unbilled legal work or a disbursement, and
  • That work or disbursement is within the scope of the original retainer, and
  • The funds are a retainer, not held for a specific purpose like a holdback or recording fee.
    • Example 1: your retainer letter/agreement covers postage and bank charges, and the fact the client is unresponsive leads to postage or bank charges not previously captured by a set fee for such disbursements.
    • Example 2: client agreed to pay postage, the balance in trust is 92 cents or less. Send them a letter and bill for the postage for that letter, because 92 cents is the current cost of a stamp in a book. Even if the letter is returned, you acted reasonably. Write-off any balance.
  • Any time that a client is billed, the invoice, outlining the work performed, must be sent to the client. If a lawyer were to generate an invoice and withdraw the funds without sending the invoice to the client, this is equivalent to misappropriating client money.

    It is inappropriate to bill from an old balance for:
  • An additional fee for administration or lawyer time related to holding the money (e.g. an additional file administration charge or the lawyer’s hourly charge related to time spent dealing with the old balance). Law firms are not banks; don’t charge fees for holding money.
    • Example: Balance in trust is $10.00. All the legal work was completed and billed earlier. Don’t send a bill for $10.00.

What are some suggested solutions for dealing with old balances?

Your approach to old balances should be systematic. Once it is no longer reasonable to try to return the funds to the client, you should pay those funds out through the next Undistributed Trust Funds Application made by the Society. This is the reason that the Society makes these applications: they provide an easy, cost-effective and appropriate way to clear old balances.

What type of system should we have to eliminate and prevent old balances?

Here are some tips to eliminate and prevent old balances:

  • Someone at your firm should review trust balances regularly, file by file.
    • Make sure there is action since the last review.
    • Review every balance older than a year, moving to six months as you work through any older balances.
  • All partners should take diligent interest in old and/or large balances, for their own protection. It is recommended to print trust listings, sorted by lawyer. These listings should be signed by the responsible lawyer and reviewed by the Designated Lawyer on a periodic basis.
  • It is recommended that the file of any lawyer with an old or large balance be reviewed by a different partner.
  • Set goals and targets for all lawyers; Remind lawyers of their responsibility to pay out trust money as soon as practicable upon completion of legal services.
  • Funds that can be returned to clients should be, asap.
  • If funds cannot be returned to the client asap, develop an appropriate alternative action, such as:
    • escalate pursuant to the mortgage release protocol
    • inclusion in the next Undistributed Trust Funds Application
    • payment into court
    • using a financial institution as an escrow agent
  • Follow up to make sure the action has happened.

Are there other general tips about preventing and eliminating old balances?

Here are some general tips:

  • If your firm is still unable to make headway on addressing old balances, consider any staffing issues you may have. Consider hiring additional staff to support the firm’s ability to fully complete files.
  • When possible, prevent trivial balances accumulating in your trust account. Before a final disbursement is made, review a copy of the client ledger card (history of client transactions). Is there a rounding error that may result in a trivial amount being left in the client account?Is a lawyer joining or leaving your firm? What is the firm’s policy on handling any balances left behind? These balances may become an unnecessary administrative burden/liability for the firm. Although the departing lawyer has an ethical responsibility to address these balances, it is the law firm (via the Designated Lawyer) who the Society will be following up with to address the issue. The Society has seen this issue happen time and time again – in particular for balances left behind by retiring lawyers. If a lawyer is joining your firm, consider the types of balances they wish to deposit into your trust account. Is there a plan of action for each balance? Will this balance become an unnecessary administrative burden/liability to the firm?
  • Do not get into a cycle of stale dated cheques. If a cheque has become (or is about to become) stale, contact the client to enquire about a change of address or misplacement of the original cheque. Consider making use of the Undistributed Trust Fund Application .
  • Before a cheque of $2.00 or less is issued to a client, consider asking the client if they prefer the funds to be submitted through the Undistributed Trust Fund Application .
  • Although bank drafts are an acceptable form of trust account withdrawal, unless you are certain the bank draft will be negotiated by your client, do not issue a bank draft as a final attempt to clear a stale or inactive trust account balance. If the client does not negotiate the bank draft after a certain period of time, the bank will contact you to address the funds.

How should I handle old balances held back due to an outstanding clearance certificate?

According to the CRA website, CRA’s assessment can take up to 120 days, assuming you provide all of the necessary documents. However, in certain situations, the CRA may need to do an audit before it issues the clearance certificate. If you have not received your certificate or a clearance certificate officer has not contacted you within 120 days, visit the CRA website to obtain contact information.

While the issuance of a clearance certificate may be outside your control, you cannot allow a holdback for this purpose to remain in trust in perpetuity. If you cannot obtain 1) any necessary assistance from your client or 2) advice from CRA, you may need to seek guidance from your insurer and/or the Society.

What are my obligations regarding the recording of mortgage releases?

All lawyers have an obligation pursuant to subregulations 8.2.7 to 8.2.10 of the Legal Profession Act to record mortgage releases in a timely manner. In particular, Regulation 8.2.7 requires that you take the necessary steps to record a mortgage release in a parcel register within 180 days of the closing date of the transaction. The requirement for the timely discharge of a mortgage is further set out in Real Estate Practice Standard 3.4.

How should I handle old balances related to funds or mortgage releases?

Take proactive steps if a bank or lawyer has undertaken to provide you a release but has failed to do so.  You can also look at these additional resources:

  1. Section 60 of the Land Registrations Act
  2. Regulations 8.2.6 to 8.2.10
  3. Real Estate Practice Standard 3.4
  4. Mortgage Payout Protocol practice aids and resources, and
  5. Mortgage Discharge Escalation Contact List

The following information is a summary of the resources above. You can use this information to remind a colleague of their obligations or use the resources to get the release recorded yourself.


Mortgage Payouts

All lawyers have both an ethical duty and a regulatory obligation to fulfill their undertakings.

Under the Code a lawyer “must  fulfill every undertaking given”[1]  The Regulations under the Legal Professional Act require lawyers practising real estate to comply with the Real Estate Standards of Practice.[2]   

The Real Estate Standards state:

A lawyer who undertakes to record the release of a mortgage or to cancel a security interest, must take steps to ensure the removal of the security interest from the registry or parcel register in a timely manner. A lawyer who pays out, or causes to be paid out, in full or in part, a mortgage recorded in a parcel register must be aware of and comply with the Mortgage Payout Protocol.[3]

The Mortgage Payout Protocol takes advantage of the provisions of the Land Registration Act reversing the onus to lenders once a mortgage has been paid out, and requiring them to apply to court to maintain a security interest. These provisions in the Land Registration Act and the Administration Regulation allow lawyers to use a simple procedure if the lender delays in providing or recording a release after payout. The simple procedure is set out in the Regulations 8.2.7 and 8.2.8 under the Legal Professional Act.  Guidelines and tools are provided in the Mortgage Payout Protocol.

Simply put, there is no excuse for a lawyer not to fulfill an undertaking to another lawyer to ensure a mortgage is paid out and the security interest is removed from the parcel register in a timely manner. 


[1] Chapter 7.2-11

[2] Regulation 8.1.3, See also Regulations 8.2.4 to 8.2.8 regarding removing security interests from the parcel registry

[3] https://www.lians.ca/standards/real-estate-standards/part-iv-conveyancing-practice/46-undertakings

How do I handle funds that are “trapped” in my Service Nova Scotia Trust Account?

For greater certainty, a practising lawyer or law firm must not pay into the Service Nova Scotia Trust Account more money than the practising lawyer or law firm expects to be required to pay the document registration fees and deed transfer tax, if any, related to a client’s real estate transaction. It is for this reason that the Service Nova Scotia Trust Account should be drawn down to a zero balance on a frequent basis.

There are times when the firm expected to pay registration fees but it was later determined that another party has done the registration. Lawyers are allowed to remove/transfer funds from the Service Nova Scotia Trust Account back to the main General Trust Account. This is considered to be a trust to trust transfer.

A record should be maintained for all transfers of trust money between clients’ trust ledger accounts with an explanation of the purpose for which each transfer is made. If the law firm opts to use an online transfer, we recommend the use of our Electronic Transfer of Funds Form for record keeping purposes.  

How should I handle old balances related to retainer funds and funds not encumbered by conditions

Take reasonable steps to return these funds to the client.  “Reasonable” depends on the circumstances, particularly the amount involved, and the age and vulnerability of the client.  Once you have exhausted the reasonable steps, include the funds in the next Undistributed Trust Funds Application.

What are some suggested steps to disburse funds to a client or find a missing client?

Here are some ideas to find clients and disburse funds to a client:

  • Include a brief letter with the cheque and send to the last known address; convey that if they do not cash the cheque, the funds will likely be paid to the Public Trustee.
  • If it has been a while since you have had contact with the client, try to verify the address before mailing the cheque. This will reduce the risk of the issued cheque becoming stale dated.
  • Do not just mail a cheque and give up if it is uncashed or is returned to sender.
  • Email and phone, if possible, before the cheque is even close to stale. Also, convey that the money will likely be paid to the Public Trustee if not cashed.
  • Look in the file for helpful information such as:
  • Purpose of the funds and circumstances leading to why the funds are being held
  • Full name
  • Previous names
  • Last known contact information
  • Property ownership at any given time
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Age
  • Photograph
  • Names of family members, residence, and contact information
  • If their address is not current, conduct a Canada 411 search, within reason (John Smith isn’t going to search well, but John Smith Waterville might).
  • Google, within reason.
  • Facebook/Messenger (use Messenger to contact if you find them), within reason.
  • Instagram, within reason.
  • LinkedIn, within reason.
  • For clients who might reasonably own NS property, POL if you subscribe.
  • Use this list as a checklist (noting dates and results) to assist with any Undistributed Trust Funds Application.
  • Are they snowbirds? Try to contact them again in the spring.

It’s easier to take these steps to find the client than to keep having to revisit the problem. Have tips about what works or doesn’t? Let us know at lss@nsbs.org.

For any balance over approximately $100, it is recommended you go further:

  • More than one letter/email is appropriate.
  • Spend more time on your online searches. It is reasonable to make a greater effort for greater amounts.
  • Consider contacting a third party if possible and reasonable, such as a family member, looking for contact info. Keep confidential information out of your discussion. It’s ok to say it’s good news.
  • Retain the services of a skip tracer, if appropriate.
  • You might check obituaries if reasonable.
  • Sometimes funds are in dispute, e.g. between ex-spouses. Many disputes melt away if you are frank. Tell the parties you must apply to pay the funds into court and ask for your costs, so there will ultimately be less for division.
  • You may contact the Society for guidance, especially if there is a large sum and you cannot find the client or the matter cannot be resolved.

When all else fails – What is the Undistributed Trust Fund Application (UTFA)?

Twice a year, the NSBS makes a court application on behalf of lawyers and law firms with undistributable trust funds to have those funds made payable to the Public Trustee.

There are three possible scenarios where funds are eligible for payment to the Public Trustee:

1. The beneficiary(ies) cannot be located or identified OR

2. The object of the trust cannot be carried out OR

3. If for any other reason it is not possible to distribute the assets of the estate or trust.

Your affidavit must provide an evidentiary basis to prove one of these scenarios.  Generally speaking, the higher the amount, the more effort you needs to put in to try and find the client and/or disburse the funds in accordance with their object. 

Once you have made reasonable efforts to return the funds to your client or disburse the funds in accordance with their object, we recommend that you prepare your affidavit while those efforts are fresh in your mind.

Information and a template affidavit are linked here.

The applications are typically made in the late fall and in the summer, but don’t wait. You can send applications to the attention of the Society’s Professional Responsibility Counsel at any time.

Please email any of your administrative questions regarding the filing of the UTFA to TrustAccounts@nsbs.org.

These affidavits are quite straightforward, and can easily become part of your systematic management of old trust balances. Please ensure you have reviewed the information as affidavits that include inappropriate information will be returned to you for revision.

How much does the Undistributed Trust Fund Application cost?

You must enclose with your affidavit a $25.00 administration fee payable to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. There is only one $25.00 administration fee – not $25.00 for each balance or affidavit submitted.

Do I have to file a separate affidavit for each client I wish to include in the Undistributed Trust Fund Application?

Separate affidavits are not required. You may include several clients/balances in one affidavit, or if appropriate, you may make use of an appendix.

What are my reporting obligations with regard to old balances?

Any balance should be disbursed in a timely manner if the matter has concluded. Please review your obligations pursuant to subregulations 10.2.9.1 and 10.2.9.2. A Trust Account Report, in the prescribed form, must be filed by March 31 of each year by all practicing lawyers or law firms operating one or more General Trust Accounts. Currently, the Society requires the report to include a separate attachment summarizing any balance held in trust for more than three years (including date, dollar amount, reason for balance, and client name/ID). Since there are relatively few situations when a balance is required to be held in a General Trust Account for more than three years, the Trust Accounts Department will perform significant follow-up on any balances in this category. Follow-up will continue until the balances are appropriately disbursed or a satisfactory explanation has been provided. Satisfactory explanations include an appropriate timeline of actions taken or estimated timeline of actions to be taken to move the balance/matter forward. A significant amount or quantity of balances held in trust for more than three years may result in additional audit procedures and/or a report to the Professional Responsibility Department.

FAQs Undistributed Trust Funds Application 

What is the Undistributed Trust Fund Application (UTFA)?

Twice a year, the Society makes a court application on behalf of lawyers and law firms with undistributed trust funds to have those funds made payable to the Public Trustee under section 28 of the Public Trustee Act.

What funds qualify to be included in the UTFA?

Funds that qualify are those:

  • That have been held in trust for at least two years;
  • That cannot be paid out because:
    • The beneficiary(ies) cannot be located or identified OR
    • The object of the trust cannot be carried out OR
    • If for any other reason, it is not possible to distribute the assets of the estate or trust.
  • For which the client cannot be identified or contacted after reasonable efforts;
  • That can be quantified; and
  • That are not subject to any known conditions.

What is considered “reasonable efforts” to identify and/or locate the client?

“Reasonable efforts” depends on the circumstances, particularly the dollar amount involved and the age and vulnerability of the client. 

What are some suggested steps to make reasonable efforts to disburse funds to a client or find a missing client?

Here are some ideas to find clients and disburse funds to a client:

  • Include a brief letter with the cheque and send to the last known address; convey that if they do not cash the cheque, the funds will likely be paid to the Public Trustee.
  • If it has been a while since you have had contact with the client, try to verify the address before mailing the cheque. This will reduce the risk of the issued cheque becoming stale dated.
  • Do not just mail a cheque and give up if it is uncashed or is returned to sender.
  • Email and phone, if possible, before the cheque is even close to stale. Also, convey that the money will likely be paid to the Public Trustee if not cashed.
  • Look in the file for helpful information such as:
    • Purpose of the funds and circumstances leading to why the funds are being held
    • Full name
    • Previous names
    • Last known contact information
    • Property ownership at any given time
    • Occupation
    • Education
    • Age
    • Photograph
    • Names of family members, residence, and contact information
  • If their address is not current, conduct a Canada 411 search, within reason (John Smith isn’t going to search well, but John Smith Waterville might).
  • Google, within reason.
  • Facebook/Messenger (use Messenger to contact if you find them), within reason.
  • Instagram, within reason.
  • LinkedIn, within reason.
  • For clients who might reasonably own NS property, POL if you subscribe.
  • For corporate clients, check the Registry of Joint Stock Companies website
  • Use this list as a checklist (noting dates and results) to assist with your affidavit.
  • Are they snowbirds? Try to contact them again in the spring.

For any balance over approximately $100, it is recommended you go further:

  • More than one letter/email is appropriate.
  • Spend more time on your online searches. It is reasonable to make a greater effort for greater amounts.
  • Consider contacting a third party if possible and reasonable, such as a family member, looking for contact info. Keep confidential information out of your discussion. It’s ok to say it’s good news.
  • Retain the services of a skip tracer, if appropriate.
  • You might check obituaries if reasonable.
  • Sometimes funds are in dispute, e.g. between ex-spouses. Many disputes melt away if you are frank. Tell the parties you must apply to pay the funds into court and ask for your costs, so there will ultimately be less for the division.
  • You may contact the Society for guidance, especially if there is a large sum and you cannot find the client or the matter cannot be resolved.

What do I need to do to be included in the Society’s UTF application?

To be included in the Society’s application, you need to send us an affidavit and a filing fee of $25.00.

What evidence do I need to include in my affidavit?

Your affidavit must provide an evidentiary basis to prove that your application qualifies for payment to the Public Trustee. Generally, the higher the amount, the more effort you needs to put in to try to find the client and/or disburse the funds in accordance with their object. 

For Trust Funds to which one or more persons are entitled, include:

  • name of the client(s)
  • name of the lawyer who provided the service and received the trust funds
  • balance of trust funds currently held
  • date funds were received
  • date funds were last dispersed, where applicable
  • a statement that the funds were or appear to have been received for the provision of legal services
  • efforts made by you to deliver the funds to the client(s) (i.e., state that you did Property Online or 411 searches or sent X number of letters on X dates to the client(s)’ last known address) Please note: do not include private, confidential or privileged information about the client(s), such as copies of letters sent to the client(s), trust account ledger(s), the client(s)’ last known address, a description of the legal services provided to the client(s).
  • a statement that there are no conditions to which the funds are subject
  • if the client entitled to the funds was a corporation, a statement as to whether the corporation still exists according to the official records of the government of the jurisdiction in which the corporation was incorporated or continued
  • a statement that you wish the Court to authorize the transfer of funds belonging to (name of the client(s)), held in trust by (name of the lawyer or law firm) to the Public Trustee

For Trust Funds that cannot be attributed to any person:

  • the number of unattributed funds currently held
  • the date the funds were received
  • the reason(s), if known, why the funds were credited to the trust account and why the funds cannot be attributed to any particular client or another person
  • a statement that you wish the Court to authorize the transfer of unattributed funds held in trust by (name of lawyer or law firm) to the Public Trustee

Do you have a template affidavit?

We do have a template affidavit. Link to download template affidavit.

How much does the Undistributed Trust Fund Application cost?

You must enclose with your affidavit a $25.00 administration fee payable to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. There is only one $25.00 administration fee – not $25.00 for each balance or affidavit submitted.

Do I have to file a separate affidavit for each client I wish to include in the Undistributed Trust Fund Application?

Separate affidavits are not required. You may include several clients/balances in one affidavit, or if appropriate, you may make use of an appendix.

What happens after I submit my affidavit and filing fee?

The Society may contact you to get clarification on your affidavit and may ask you to make revisions to your affidavit to help support the application.

The Society prepares the documentation and attends Chambers to get the  Court Order permitting the funds to be paid to the Public Trustee. We will let you know when the Order has been granted.

What do I do after the Order is granted?

Once the Society has received the Order granting payment of the undistributed trust funds to the Public Trustee, the Professional Responsibility Counsel will provide you with a copy of the Order and request that you send a trust cheque in respect of the funds contained in your application to the Society, payable to the Public Trustee.

Trust Account and Client Ledger Shortages 

Unless the overdraft is less than $50, a practising lawyer or law firm must immediately report to the Executive Director any overdrafts in the practising lawyer’s or law firm’s trust account, including any relevant information regarding the reason for the overdraft if  

  1. the overdraft was not corrected within 7 days of the time the shortage arose; or  
  2. the overdraft is an amount greater than $2,500, regardless of when it occurred. 

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. 

Questions about the Trust Account Audit Program? Please contact the Society’s Trust Assurance Auditor, Jocelyn MacNeill at jmacneill@nsbs.org

Questions? 

Please contact the Society’s Trust Assurance Team at TrustAccounts@nsbs.org.