Trust Account Program
The OLR Trust Account Program has two primary goals: 1) to oversee compliance with the Wisconsin Supreme Court's overdraft reporting requirements; and 2) to educate lawyers with respect to safeguarding funds and maintaining proper records. For further information, please see the Trust Account Program's Annual Report.
Overdraft reporting and IOLTA agreements
All Wisconsin IOLTA accounts are subject to both overdraft reporting and IOLTA requirements. In order to comply with these requirements, lawyers and law firms must enter into the following agreements with an IOLTA participating financial institution:
The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) maintains a list of IOLTA participating institutions (external link).
NOTE: Non-IOLTA trust accounts that are draft accounts are also subject to overdraft reporting. Fiduciary accounts are subject to overdraft reporting unless an alternative to overdraft reporting is in place. See overdraft reporting, for a list of the alternatives. Fiduciary accounts and non-IOLTA trust accounts must not be subject to an IOLTA agreement. [See SCR 20:1.15(c)(2) and SCR 20:1.15(k)(3)].
Be alert for suspicious ACH transactions: Lawyers should be aware that there is a far shorter period of time for lawyers and other business people to notify their financial institutions of suspicious ACH transactions in corporate accounts than there is for consumers to report such transactions in personal accounts. Read more.
Supreme Court re-creates trust account rule; amends related rules: On April 4, 2016, the Wisconsin Supreme Court repealed and re-created SCR 20:1.15—Safekeeping property; trust accounts and fiduciary accounts, and amended SCR 20:1.0, SCR 20:1.5 and SCR 22.39, effective July 1, 2016. Order, Petition No. 14-07. The changes to SCR 20:1.15 will expand the use of electronic transactions in trust and fiduciary accounts beyond the current limits of accepting payments for legal fees and costs, and collecting debts. Read more.
New trust account rule affecting out-of-state lawyers: SCR 20:1.15 now permits lawyers who primarily practice in another state to use the trust account that they maintain in that state for Wisconsin legal matters, so long as the state in which they primarily practice has overdraft notification requirements. Read more.
Trust Account Options as of July 1, 2016: The 2016 trust account rule provides lawyers and law firms with several options for their IOLTA trust accounts. In determining which option will work best, a lawyer or law firm should first identify the types of transactions that are currently being used and those that the lawyer or law firm would like to use in the near future. The types of transactions that are now permitted include: remote deposits; electronic transfers (ACH transactions); credit, debit and pre-paid cards; checks, wire transfers, and teller deposits. Read more.
Trust account-related rules and record-keeping guidelines
- SCR 20:1.15 Safekeeping property effective July 1, 2016
- Former SCR 20:1.15 Safekeeping property effective through June 30, 2016
- SCR 20:1.5 Fees effective July 1, 2016
- SCR 20:1.0 Terminology effective July 1, 2016
- SCR 22.39 Burden of proof effective July 1, 2016
- OLR Guidelines for trust account records
- OLR Guidelines for fiduciary account records
Topics of interest to lawyers
For guidance on a variety of topics relating to trust and fiduciary accounts, including electronic transactions, please explore the following links:
- Commercially reasonable security
- E-banking trust account (how it works)
- E-banking trust account alternative (how it works)
- Scams targeting lawyers and trust accounts
- Trust account option chart
- Unclaimed funds
For guidance on dealing with common trust account problems that occur in certain specialized practice areas, including bankruptcy, criminal law, real estate, and personal injury, please use the following links:
Education and resources
- Trust Account Manual
- Upcoming trust account seminars: April 28, 2017 and October 6, 2017
- Guidance on trust aspects of legal fees
For further information, contact Mary Hoeft Smith, Trust Account Program Administrator, by phone at (877) 315-6941 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.