Rule 1.15. Safekeeping Property.
(a) The following definitions are applicable to Rule 1.15:
(1) Eligible Institution. An Eligible Institution is a Financial Institution which has been approved as a depository of Trust Accounts pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 221(h).
(2) Fiduciary. A Fiduciary is a lawyer acting as a personal representative, guardian, conservator, receiver, trustee, agent under a durable power of attorney, or other similar position.
(3) Fiduciary Funds. Fiduciary Funds are Rule 1.15 Funds which the lawyer holds as a Fiduciary. Fiduciary Funds may be either Qualified Funds or Nonqualified Funds.
(4) Financial Institution. A Financial Institution is an entity which is authorized by federal or state law and licensed to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as one of the following: a bank, bank and trust company, trust company, credit union, savings bank, savings and loan association or foreign banking corporation, the deposits of which are insured by an agency of the federal government, or as an investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 or with the Pennsylvania Securities Commission, an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, or a broker dealer registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
(5) Interest On Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) Account. An IOLTA Account is an income producing Trust Account from which funds may be withdrawn upon request as soon as permitted by law. Qualified Funds are to be held or deposited in an IOLTA Account.
(6) IOLTA Board. The IOLTA Board is the Pennsylvania Interest On Lawyers Trust Account Board.
(7) Non-IOLTA Account. A Non-IOLTA Account is an income producing Trust Account from which funds may be withdrawn upon request as soon as permitted by law in which a lawyer deposits Rule 1.15 Funds. Only Nonqualified Funds are to be held or deposited in a Non-IOLTA Account. A Non-IOLTA Account shall be established only as:
(i) a separate client Trust Account for the particular client or matter on which the net income will be paid to the client or third person; or
(ii) a pooled client Trust Account with subaccounting by the Eligible Institution or by the lawyer, which will provide for computation of net income earned by each clients or third persons funds and the payment thereof to the client or third person.
(8) Nonqualified Funds. Nonqualified Funds are Rule 1.15 Funds, whether cash, check, money order or other negotiable instrument, which are not Qualified Funds.
(9) Qualified Funds. Qualified Funds are Rule 1.15 Funds which are nominal in amount or are reasonably expected to be held for such a short period of time that sufficient income will not be generated to justify the expense of administering a segregated account.
(10) Rule 1.15 Funds. Rule 1.15 Funds are funds which the lawyer receives from a client or third person in connection with a client-lawyer relationship, or as an escrow agent, settlement agent or representative payee, or as a Fiduciary, or receives as an agent, having been designated as such by a client or having been so selected as a result of a client-lawyer relationship or the lawyers status as such. When the term property appears with Rule 1.15 Funds, it means property of a client or third person which the lawyer receives in any of the foregoing capacities.
(11) Trust Account. A Trust Account is an account in an Eligible Institution in which a lawyer holds Rule 1.15 Funds. A Trust Account must be maintained either as an IOLTA Account or as a Non-IOLTA Account.
(b) A lawyer shall hold all Rule 1.15 Funds and property separate from the lawyers own property. Such property shall be identified and appropriately safeguarded.
(c) Required records. Complete records of the receipt, maintenance and disposition of Rule 1.15 Funds and property shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the client-lawyer or Fiduciary relationship or after distribution or disposition of the property, whichever is later. A lawyer shall maintain the writing required by Rule 1.5(b) (relating to the requirement of a writing communicating the basis or rate of the fee) and the records identified in Rule 1.5(c) (relating to the requirement of a written fee agreement and distribution statement in a contingent fee matter). A lawyer shall also maintain the following books and records for each Trust Account and for any other account in which Fiduciary Funds are held pursuant to Rule 1.15(l):
(1) all transaction records provided to the lawyer by the Financial Institution or other investment entity, such as periodic statements, cancelled checks in whatever form, deposited items and records of electronic transactions; and
(2) check register or separately maintained ledger, which shall include the payee, date, purpose and amount of each check, withdrawal and transfer, the payor, date, and amount of each deposit, and the matter involved for each transaction; provided, however, that where an account is used to hold funds of more than one client, a lawyer shall also maintain an individual ledger for each trust client, showing the source, amount and nature of all funds received from or on behalf of the client, the description and amounts of charges or withdrawals, the names of all persons or entities to whom such funds were disbursed, and the dates of all deposits, transfers, withdrawals and disbursements.
(3) The records required by this Rule may be maintained in hard copy form or by electronic, photographic, or other media provided that the records otherwise comply with this Rule and that printed copies can be produced. Whatever method is used to maintain required records must have a backup so that the records are secure and always available. If records are kept only in electronic form, then such records shall be backed up on a separate electronic storage device at least at the end of any day on which entries have been entered into the records. These records shall be readily accessible to the lawyer and available for production to the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in a timely manner upon a request or demand by either agency made pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, the Disciplinary Board Rules, the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security Board Rules and Regulations, agency practice, or subpoena.
(4) A regular trial balance of the individual client trust ledgers shall be maintained. The total of the trial balance must agree with the control figure computed by taking the beginning balance, adding the total of moneys received in trust for the client, and deducting the total of all moneys disbursed. On a monthly basis, a lawyer shall conduct a reconciliation for each fiduciary account. The reconciliation is not complete if the reconciled total cash balance does not agree with the total of the client balance listing. A lawyer shall preserve for a period of five years copies of all records and computations sufficient to prove compliance with this requirement.
(d) Upon receiving Rule 1.15 Funds or property which are not Fiduciary Funds or property, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person, consistent with the requirements of applicable law. Notification of receipt of Fiduciary Funds or property to clients or other persons with a beneficial interest in such Fiduciary Funds or property shall continue to be governed by the law, procedure and rules governing the requirements of confidentiality and notice applicable to the Fiduciary entrustment.
(e) Except as stated in this Rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client or third person, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any property, including but not limited to Rule 1.15 Funds, that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding the property; Provided, however, that the delivery, accounting and disclosure of Fiduciary Funds or property shall continue to be governed by the law, procedure and rules governing the requirements of Fiduciary administration, confidentiality, notice and accounting applicable to the Fiduciary entrustment.
(f) When in possession of funds or property in which two or more persons, one of whom may be the lawyer, claim an interest, the funds or property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved. The lawyer shall promptly distribute all portions of the funds or property, including Rule 1.15 Funds, as to which the interests are not in dispute.
(g) The responsibility for identifying an account as a Trust Account shall be that of the lawyer in whose name the account is held. Only a lawyer admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction or a person under the direct supervision of the lawyer shall be an authorized signatory or authorize transfers from a Trust Account or any other account in which Fiduciary Funds are held pursuant to Rule 1.15(l).
(h) A lawyer shall not deposit the lawyers own funds in a Trust Account except for the sole purpose of paying service charges on that account, and only in an amount necessary for that purpose.
(i) A lawyer shall deposit into a Trust Account legal fees and expenses that have been paid in advance, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees are earned or expenses incurred, unless the client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing, to the handling of fees and expenses in a different manner.
(j) At all times while a lawyer holds Rule 1.15 Funds, the lawyer shall also maintain another account that is not used to hold such funds.
(k) All Nonqualified Funds which are not Fiduciary Funds shall be placed in a Non-IOLTA Account or in another investment vehicle specifically agreed upon by the lawyer and the client or third person which owns the funds.
(l) All Fiduciary Funds shall be placed in a Trust Account (which, if the Fiduciary Funds are also Qualified Funds, must be an IOLTA Account) or in another investment or account which is authorized by the law applicable to the entrustment or the terms of the instrument governing the Fiduciary Funds.
(m) All Qualified Funds which are not Fiduciary Funds shall be placed in an IOLTA Account.
(n) A lawyer shall be exempt from the requirement that all Qualified Funds be placed in an IOLTA Account only upon exemption requested and granted by the IOLTA Board. If an exemption is granted, the lawyer must hold Qualified Funds in a Trust Account which is not income producing. Exemptions shall be granted if:
(1) the nature of the lawyers practice does not require the routine maintenance of a Trust Account in Pennsylvania;
(2) compliance with this paragraph would work an undue hardship on the lawyer or would be extremely impractical, based either on the geographical distance between the lawyers principal office and the closest Eligible Institution, or on other compelling and necessitous factors; or
(3) the lawyers historical annual Trust Account experience, based on information from the Eligible Institution in which the lawyer deposits funds, demonstrates that the service charges on the account would significantly and routinely exceed any income generated.
(o) An account shall not be considered an IOLTA Account unless the Eligible Institution at which the account is maintained shall:
(1) Remit at least quarterly any income earned on the account to the IOLTA Board;
(2) Transmit to the IOLTA Board with each remittance and to the lawyer who maintains the IOLTA Account a statement showing at least the name of the account, service charges or fees deducted, if any, the amount of income remitted from the account, and the average daily balance, if available; and
(3) Pay a rate of interest or dividends no less than the highest interest rate or dividend generally available from the Eligible Institution to its Non-IOLTA customers when the IOLTA Account meets the same minimum balance or other eligibility qualifications, and comply with the Regulations of the IOLTA Board with respect to service charges, if any.
(p) A lawyer shall not be liable in damages or held to have breached any fiduciary duty or responsibility because monies are deposited in an IOLTA Account pursuant to the lawyers judgment in good faith that the monies deposited were Qualified Funds.
(q) There is hereby created the Pennsylvania Interest On Lawyers Trust Account Board, which shall administer the IOLTA program. The IOLTA Board shall consist of nine members who shall be appointed by the Supreme Court. Two of the appointments shall be made from a list provided to the Supreme Court by the Pennsylvania Bar Association in accordance with its own rules and regulations. With respect to these two appointments, the Pennsylvania Bar Association shall submit three names to the Supreme Court, from which the Court shall make its final selections. The term of each member shall be three years and no member shall be appointed for more than two consecutive three year terms. The Supreme Court shall appoint a Chairperson. In order to administer the IOLTA program, the IOLTA Board shall promulgate rules and regulations consistent with this Rule for approval by the Supreme Court.
(r) The IOLTA Board shall comply with the following:
(1) The IOLTA Board shall prepare an annual audited statement of its financial affairs.
(2) The IOLTA Board shall submit to the Supreme Court for its approval a copy of its audited statement of financial affairs, clearly setting forth in detail all funds previously approved for disbursement under the IOLTA program and the IOLTA Boards proposed annual budget, designating the uses to which IOLTA Funds are recommended.
(3) Upon approval of the Supreme Court, the IOLTA Board shall distribute and/or expend IOLTA Funds.
(s) Income earned on IOLTA Accounts (IOLTA Funds) may be used only for the following purposes:
(1) delivery of civil legal assistance to the poor and disadvantaged in Pennsylvania by non-profit corporations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended;
(2) educational legal clinical programs and internships administered by law schools located in Pennsylvania;
(3) administration and development of the IOLTA program in Pennsylvania; and
(4) the administration of justice in Pennsylvania.
(t) The IOLTA Board shall hold the beneficial interest in IOLTA Funds. Monies received in the IOLTA program are not state or federal funds and are not subject to Article VI of the act of April 9, 1929 (P. L. 177, No. 175) known as The Administrative Code of 1929, or the act of June 29, 1976 (P. L. 469, No. 117).
(u) Every attorney who is required to pay an active annual assessment under Rule 219 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (relating to annual registration of attorneys) shall pay an additional annual fee of $30.00 for use by the IOLTA Board. Such additional assessment shall be added to, and collected with and in the same manner as, the basic annual assessment. All amounts received pursuant to this subdivision shall be credited to the IOLTA Board.
(v) Unclaimed or Unidentifiable IOLTA Funds.
(1) When a lawyer or law firm cannot, using reasonable efforts for a minimum of two (2) years, identify or locate the owner of funds in either its Pennsylvania IOLTA account or the Pennsylvania IOLTA account of a deceased lawyer whose estate is represented by the lawyer or law firm, it shall pay the funds to the Pennsylvania IOLTA Board. At the time such funds are remitted, the lawyer or law firm shall submit to the IOLTA Board the name and last known address of each person appearing from the lawyers or law firms records to be entitled to the funds, and the amount of unclaimed funds to which each owner is entitled, if known; the amount of any unidentifiable funds; and a description of the efforts undertaken to identify and locate the owner(s).
(2) If, after making a payment of unclaimed or unidentifiable funds to the Pennsylvania IOLTA Board, the lawyer or law firm identifies and locates the owner of funds paid, the IOLTA Board shall refund the sum to the lawyer or law firm. The lawyer or law firm shall submit to the IOLTA Board a verification attesting that the funds have been returned to the owner. The IOLTA Board shall review claims submitted by purported owners of funds when the lawyer or law firm that originally remitted the funds to the IOLTA Board is no longer available. The IOLTA Board shall maintain a sufficient reserve to pay all claims for such funds.
(3) Should the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security pay an award to a former client of a lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer who has remitted funds under this Rule to the IOLTA Board, the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security may pursue a reimbursement of such award from unclaimed funds remitted by the lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer to the IOLTA Board in which the former client held an ownership interest. In no event would a reimbursement to the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security exceed the amount of funds remitted to the IOLTA Board by the subject lawyer, law firm, or deceased lawyer.
(4) A lawyer shall not be liable in damages or held to have breached any fiduciary duty or responsibility as a result of his or her good faith adherence to the unclaimed or unidentifiable IOLTA fund requirements in this subsection.
(1) A lawyer should hold property of others with the care required of a professional fiduciary. The obligations of a lawyer under this Rule apply when the lawyer has come into possession of property of clients or third persons because the lawyer is acting or has acted as a lawyer in a client-lawyer relationship, or when the lawyer is acting as a Fiduciary, or as an escrow agent, a settlement agent or a representative payee, or as an agent, having been designated as such by a client or having been so selected as a result of a client-lawyer relationship or the lawyers status as such. Securities should be appropriately safeguarded. All property which is the property of clients or third persons, including prospective clients, must be kept separate from the lawyers business and personal property and, if Rule 1.15 Funds, in one or more Trust Accounts, or, if a Fiduciary entrustment, in an investment or account authorized by applicable law or a governing instrument. The responsibility for identifying an account as a Trust Account shall be that of the lawyer in whose name the account is held. Whenever a lawyer holds Rule 1.15 Funds, the lawyer must maintain at least two accounts: one in which those funds are held and another in which the lawyers own funds may be held.
(2) A lawyer should maintain on a current basis books and records in accordance with sound accounting practices consistently applied and comply with any recordkeeping rules established by law or court order, including those records identified in paragraph (c). With little exception, funds belonging to a client or third party must be deposited into a Trust Account as defined in paragraph (a)(11), and funds belonging to the lawyer must be deposited in a business operating account maintained pursuant to paragraph (j). Thus, unless the client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing, to a different manner of handling funds advanced by the client to cover fees and expenses, the lawyer must deposit those funds into a Trust Account pursuant to paragraph (i). If the lawyer pools such funds belonging to more than one client, under paragraph (c)(2) the lawyer must keep a ledger for each individual client, regularly recording all funds received from the client and their purpose, and all disbursements of earned fees and expenses incurred. As fees become earned, the lawyer must promptly transfer those funds to the operating account. If the lawyer pools client funds after settlement or verdict in a single Trust Account, the lawyer must maintain a ledger of receipts and disbursements for each individual client, regularly recording the dates of each transaction, the identity of payors and payees, and the purpose of each disbursement, withdrawal or transfer of funds. The requirement of monthly reconciliations should deter situations where an attorneys Trust Account contains a shortfall for any significant period of time. Additionally, if a lawyer fails to maintain the records identified in paragraph (c) or to perform the required monthly reconciliations, later claims by the lawyer that a shortfall (i.e., misappropriation) resulted from negligence, even if credible, will necessarily be balanced against the lawyers abdication of responsibility to comply with essential requirements associated with acting as a fiduciary and serving in a position of trust. The failure to maintain or timely produce the records required by paragraph (c) hampers rule-mandated or agency-promulgated investigative inquiries by the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and may serve as a basis for emergency temporary suspension of the lawyers license to practice law. See Pa.R.D.E. 208(f)(1), 208(f)(5), 213(g)(2) and 221(g)(3).
(3) While normally it is impermissible to commingle the lawyers own funds with Rule 1.15 Funds, paragraph (h) provides that it is permissible when necessary to pay service charges on that account. Accurate records must be kept regarding the funds.
(4) A lawyers obligations with respect to funds of clients and third persons depend on the capacity in which the lawyer receives them, on whether they are Fiduciary Funds as defined in paragraph (a)(3) and on whether they are Nonqualified Funds or Qualified Funds as defined in paragraphs (a)(8) or (9) respectively. If the lawyer receives them in one of the capacities identified in paragraph (a)(10), the obligations in paragraphs (b) through (h), such as safeguarding, notification, and recordkeeping, apply. Nonqualified Funds other than Fiduciary Funds are to be placed in a Non-IOLTA Account, as defined in paragraph (a)(7), in an Eligible Institution, as defined in paragraph (a)(1), unless the client or third person specifically agrees to another investment vehicle for the benefit of the client or third person. Qualified Funds other than Fiduciary Funds must, subject to certain exceptions, be placed in an IOLTA Account defined in paragraph (a)(5).
(5) If the funds, whether Qualified Funds or Nonqualified Funds, are Fiduciary Funds, they may be placed in an investment or account authorized by the law applicable to the entrustment or authorized by the terms of the instrument governing the Fiduciary Funds. In such investment or account they shall be subject to the obligations of safeguarding, notification and recordkeeping. This Rule is not intended to change the substantive law or procedural rules that govern Fiduciary Funds or property with the exception of the specific recordkeeping requirements, segregation of Fiduciary Funds or property, and where Fiduciary Funds are kept in an Eligible Institution, overdraft reporting pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 221, to the extent that those requirements underscore or supplement the requirements regarding Fiduciary Funds or property. The goal of the amendments is to require all attorneys to keep appropriate records of entrusted funds, segregate such funds from the attorneys funds, account to those with an interest in the funds, and distribute the funds when due, and to permit the disciplinary system to respond when lawyers fail to comply with these standards.
(6) This Rule does not require a Fiduciary to liquidate entrusted investments or investments made in accordance with applicable law or a governing instrument or to transfer non-income producing fiduciary account balances to an IOLTA Account. This Rule does not prohibit a Fiduciary from making an investment in accordance with applicable law or a governing instrument. Funds which are controlled by a non-lawyer professional co-fiduciary shall not be considered to be Rule 1.15 Funds for the purposes of this Rule.
(7) Lawyers often receive funds from which the lawyers fee will be paid. Unless the fee is non-refundable, it should be deposited to a Trust Account and drawn down as earned. The lawyer is not required to remit to the client funds that the lawyer reasonably believes represent fees owed. However, a lawyer may not hold funds to coerce a client into accepting the lawyers contention. The disputed portion of the funds must be kept in a Trust Account and the lawyer should suggest means for prompt resolution of the dispute, such as arbitration. The undisputed portion of the funds shall be promptly distributed.
(8) Third parties may have lawful claims against specific funds or other property in a lawyers custody such as a clients creditor who has a lien on funds recovered in a personal injury action. A lawyer may have a duty under applicable law to protect such third-party claims against wrongful interference by the client. In such cases, when the third party claim is not frivolous under applicable law, the lawyer must refuse to surrender the property to the client unless the claims are resolved. A lawyer should not unilaterally assume to arbitrate a dispute between the client and the third party. When there are substantial grounds for dispute as to the person entitled to the funds, the lawyer may file an action to have a court resolve the dispute.
(9) Other applicable law may impose pertinent obligations upon a lawyer independent of and in addition to the obligations arising from this Rule. For example, a lawyer who receives funds as an escrow agent, a representative payee, or a Fiduciary remains subject to the law applicable to the entrustment, such as the Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code, Orphans Court Rules, the Social Security Act, and to the terms of the governing instrument. If, during the final year of a Fiduciary entrustment, the lawyer who is serving as a Fiduciary reasonably expects that the funds cannot earn income for the client or third person in excess of the cost incurred to secure such income while the funds are held, the lawyer may, in the discretion of the lawyer, deposit the funds into the IOLTA Account of the lawyer, or may arrange to discontinue the payment of interest on the segregated Trust Account.
(10) A lawyer must participate in the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security established in Rule 503 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement. It is a means through the collective efforts of the bar to reimburse persons who have lost money or property as a result of dishonest conduct of a lawyer.
(11) Paragraphs (q) through (t) provide for the Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program. There are further instructions relating to the IOLTA program in Rules 219 and 221 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement and in the Regulations of the Interest On Lawyers Trust Account Board, 204 Pa. Code, § 81.1 et seq., which are referred to as the IOLTA Regulations.
(12) For purposes of subsection (v), unidentifiable funds refers to funds accumulated in an IOLTA account that cannot be reasonably documented as belonging to a client, former client, third party, or the lawyer or law firm. Unclaimed funds refers to funds for which a client, former client, or third party appear to have an interest, but have not responded to the lawyer or law firms reasonable efforts to encourage the client, former client, or third party to claim their rightful funds. A lawyer or law firms reasonable efforts to identify the owner of funds include a review of transaction records, client ledgers, case files, and any other relevant fee records. Reasonable efforts to locate the owner of funds include periodic correspondence of the type contemplated by the lawyer or law firms relationship with the client, former client, or third party. Should such correspondence prove unsuccessful, a lawyer or law firms reasonable efforts include efforts similar to those that would be undertaken when attempting to locate a person for service of process, such as examinations of local telephone directories, courthouse records, voter registration records, local tax records, motor vehicle records, or the use of consolidated online search services that access such records. Lawyers must maintain records of the disposition of unclaimed or unidentifiable funds and make such records available for production to the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security or the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in accordance with Pa.R.P.C. 1.15(c). The IOLTA Board shall make a standardized form with instructions available on the IOLTA Boards website or by request for use by lawyers submitting unclaimed or unidentifiable funds to the IOLTA Board. Conservators appointed pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 321 should follow the procedure in Pa.R.D.E. 324(c)(1) for distributing unclaimed and unidentifiable funds.
The provisions of this Rule 1.15 amended September 4, 2008, effective September 20, 2008, 38 Pa.B. 5157; amended April 2, 2009, effective immediately, 39 Pa.B. 1980; amended April 9, 2012 for the 2012-13 assessment and thereafter shall revert to the provisions effective for the 2011-12 assessment, effective immediately, 42 Pa.B. 2186; amended June 4, 2012, effective in 30 days, 42 Pa.B. 3431; under the order of February 12, 2013, the order of April 9, 2012 amending subsection (u) shall remain in effect for the 2013-14 annual attorney assessment and in one year shall revert to the provisions effective on April 8, 2012, effective immediately, 43 Pa.B. 1173; amended May 1, 2014, effective immediately for the 2014-15 annual attorney assessment and shall continue until further Order of the Supreme Court, 44 Pa.B. 2847; amended December 30, 2014, effective in 60 days, 45 Pa.B. 279; amended February 9, 2015, effective immediately, 45 Pa.B. 953; amended April 30, 2018, effective in 60 days, 48 Pa.B. 2756; amended February 7, 2019, effective immediately, 49 Pa.B. 824; amended February 24, 2021, effective immediately, 51 Pa.B. 1128. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (342518), (376189) to (376192) and (395739) to (395742).
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