General information about trust accounts
The name of the trust account must include:
- the name of the law practice or the business name under which the law practice engages in legal practice; and
- the expression "law practice trust account" or "law practice trust a/c".
The firm must ensure the authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) is aware that the account is to be established as a solicitor statutory trust account, and that no bank charges are to be debited to the trust account. Arrangements need to be made for any account fees charged by the ADI to be taken from the firm's office account. A general trust account can only be established with an approved ADI.
Authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADI) in the ACT are:
- ANZ Bank
- Bendigo Bank
- Commonwealth Bank of Australia
- Macquarie Relationship Banking
- National Australia Bank
- St George Bank
- Westpac Banking Corporation
Not later than 14 days after establishing a general trust account, a law practice must give the licensing body written notice of the establishment of the account. This notice needs to include the following:
- Date the account was opened
- Details of the person(s) authorised to sign cheques drawn on the general trust account or, otherwise to effect, direct or give authority for the withdrawal of money from that general trust account.
- Name of the ADI and its BSB
- Name and number of the account
A law firm must notify the Society of any irregularity in relation to trust money in the practice's trust accounts or trust ledger accounts. Circumstances where irregularities may not be required are detailed in 'Changes to trust account irregularity notifications'.
Notification needs to be made as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the irregularity.
The notice should include details of the amount involved, the date the irregularity occurred, action taken to correct the irregularity and preventative measures taken to avoid the irregularity occurring again.
Refer to section 231 of the Legal Profession Act 2006.
Section 38(5) of the Legal Profession Regulation 2007 covers all the required particulars.
However, it is important to note that the receipt must show the date the receipt is made out and, if different, the date of the receipt of the money.
This is a common occurrence for deposits made online by clients into a firm's trust account.
An amount of trust money held by a law practice becomes an unclaimed amount if:
- The amount has been held by the practice for a period of 6 years during which the practice has had no knowledge of the existence or address of the person on whose behalf the amount is held; or
- The person on whose behalf the amount is held failed to accept payment of the amount when tendered.
To lodge money with the Public Trust of the Australian Capital Territory refer to The Public Trustee and Guardian: Unclaimed money.
Refer to section 259 of the Legal Profession Act 2006.
A law firm may request repayment of money to enable necessary payments to be made out of the general trust account of the practice. The law practice must have reasonable grounds for believing that the payment needs to be made out of the general trust account within 7 days after the day when the demand is made.
A request needs to take the form of a letter to the Society, signed by a person with authority over the general trust account. Refunds are arranged promptly online into the firm's trust account.
Refer to section 72 of the Legal Profession Regulation 2007.
Designated External Examiners and Law Society Random Inspectors
- Adrian Bray, Adrian J Bray Chartered Accountant
- Lea-Anne Hickey, Niche Advantage
- Rod Scott, Nexia Australia
- Joseph Ravanello, Ravanello & Co
Designated External Examiners
Law firms may only appoint an individual who appears on the list of designated external examiners maintained by the Law Society. Please contact Lea McLean, Finance & Business Services Manager, if you have any questions on 02 6274 0300 or via email to email@example.com.
Important dates in the trust accounting year
The trust accounting year runs from 1 April to 31 March inclusive.
A law firm must engage an external examiner not later than 8 April each calendar year. Only a designated person on the list of designated external examiners may be appointed. Important Notice — the Society will not allow the firm to appoint an external examiner who is related to the firm's regular bookkeeper.
Notification to the Society is required each year in writing within one month of engaging the external examiner. You may notify the Society in writing by letter or use the form provided.
The external examination report needs to be received at the Society by 31 May immediately following the end of the trust account year.
Statutory Deposit — any payment required to be made to the Society needs to be made by 30 June, immediately following the end of the trust account year.
Statutory Deposit calculation as at 31 March is to be completed on the provided form.
During July each year, a law practice must provide the licensing body written notice of the associates and Australian legal practitioners who are authorised as at 1 July of that year to sign cheques drawn on a general trust account of the practice; or otherwise to effect, direct or give authority for the withdrawal of money from a general trust account of the practice.