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Trustee Services and the Unclaimed Trust Fund

If you are looking for information or documentation from the files of a lawyer or licensed paralegal who is no longer practising, Trustee Services may be able to help you.

When lawyers and paralegals stop practising, they are responsible for providing the Law Society with information regarding the location of their client files. Where they have done so, Trustee Services may be able to direct you to the successor paralegal or lawyer.

Before contacting Trustee Services to see if they are able to assist you, please note the following information:

  • Lawyers and paralegals do not provide the Law Society with specific client file information. Rather, they are required to provide general information, such as the names of the successor paralegals or lawyers who took custody of client files or Wills.
Accordingly, Trustee Services can assist you only in so far as providing you with the name of the successor paralegal or lawyer (where known). You would then need to contact that person to inquire if they came into possession of your particular file.
  • Lawyers and paralegals are not obligated too keep their files forever. The length of time lawyers and paralegals are required to maintain client files varies depending on the nature of the records.
  • Some lawyers will retain original Wills and Powers of Attorney as a service for their clients, but they are not obligated to do so. Most commonly, lawyers and paralegals return original client documents to clients when they close a file.
For these reasons, we encourage clients to search all safe-keeping locations in their homes and offices before undertaking an external search for legal documents.

In very limited circumstances, Trustee Services will take possession of the practice of a lawyer or licensed paralegal who has ceased to practise in order to ensure an orderly transition of the practice for clients.

To request assistance in locating a file or document, please submit a request by email to Trustee_Services@lso.ca

Unclaimed Trust Fund 

With the approval of the Law Society, lawyers and paralegals can transfer to the Law Society money that they have held in trust for a client which has been unclaimed for a period of at least two years. To apply as a licensee, please complete the Licensee Application Form and return it, along with any attachments, by email to UnclaimedTrust@lso.ca.

The Law Society holds the money for the purposes of returning it to those who are entitled to receive it.  If you believe that you are entitled to the return of trust money, please complete the Claimant's Application Form and return it, along with any attachments, by email to UnclaimedTrust@lso.ca.

For more information please contact the Unclaimed Trust Fund at 416-947-3312 or toll-free 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3312, or by email on unclaimedTrust@lso.ca

Frequently Asked Questions about the Unclaimed Trust Fund

  • Information For Claimants
    • Am I entitled to interest?
      No. Payments are limited to the amount paid to the Society by the lawyer or paralegal on behalf of the person entitled.
    • What happens after I make a claim?
      The Law Society will review your application and contact you regarding the status of your claim.
    • I would like to make a claim but I have some questions. Who do I contact for more information?
      Please contact the Unclaimed Trust Fund Program by phone at 416-947-3312 or toll free 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3312, or by email at UnclaimedTrust@lso.ca.
    • What are trust monies?
      Money paid to lawyers and licensed paralegals is usually held in their trust accounts and is therefore referred to, for the purposes of the Unclaimed Trust Fund, as "trust monies".
    • How do I make a claim?

      All claimants must complete a Claimant's Application Form for consideration by the Law Society.

      You will be asked to provide, among other things, a copy of photo identification, your contact information, the name of the lawyer or licensed paralegal to whom the money was paid, the amount of money paid and the amount claimed.

    • How do I know if I should make a claim?

      If you have paid money to a lawyer or licensed paralegal and the lawyer or paralegal, after completing his or her work for you, was unable to locate you to return any balance of the monies, those monies may have been paid to the Law Society's Unclaimed Trust Fund.

      Each year, the Law Society publishes the name of each person entitled to the money that, during the previous year, was transferred to the Society by a lawyer or licensed paralegal.

  • Information For Licensees
    • What are the minimum requirements for payment into the Unclaimed Trust Fund?
      In order to qualify for payment into the Unclaimed Trust Fund, the funds must have been held in trust for at least two years from the date of receipt and,
      • The location of the client is unknown despite the licensee's attempts to locate the client
      OR
      • The licensee is unable to determine entitlement to the funds
    • If two parties have competing claims to the fund, would that be considered "entitlement not known"?
      No. Entitlement to the funds is considered "not known" where there are insufficient records to determine the source of the funds.
    • What information and documentation do I have to include with my application and why is it important?

      1. Information regarding the Licensee who is certifying the application and is responsible for the financial filing
      This ensures that the Law Society has contact information for the person responsible for the trust account and who has authority to disburse the funds.

      2. Whether entitlement to the funds is known or not known
      This determines which section of the Act the application is made under and which sections of the application you are required to complete.

      3. Any information to assist in identifying the client or party entitled to the funds
      Information such as date of birth, last known address, and driver's licence number may assist the Law Society in confirming the identity of Claimants who may apply for disbursement of funds.

      4. Information regarding the funds held including a copy of the client ledger for the matter
      This is required to support the amount of unclaimed funds, as well as the date that they were received into trust.

      5. Information regarding the matter including the name of the Licensee who acted
      This assists in confirming the identity of any Claimants for potential disbursement by the Law Society.

      6. Results of searches and attempts to contact the client or party entitled to funds
      This helps the Law Society to determine what additional searches may be appropriate. It also eliminates the need for us to follow up with you to obtain information which could delay the processing of the application.

      7. Whether the name of the client or party entitled to funds can be published in the Ontario Gazette
      The names of parties entitled to Unclaimed Trust Funds and their last known city of residence are published annually in the Ontario Gazette for funds received in the past year. Depending on the circumstances of the client matter (for example, some family law matters), you may decide that it is in the client's best interest not to have the information published.

    • Do I send the funds together with my application?
      No. We are unable to process funds until applications to the Unclaimed Trust Fund have been approved. When a Licensee application is received, it is reviewed by Law Society staff. Upon completion of that review, Law Society staff will notify the Licensee applicant of the outcome. If the application is approved, funds will be requested by the Law Society at that time.
    • I have been notified that my Licensee application has been approved; how do I provide the funds?
      Licensees may provide funds by trust cheque or bank draft made payable to the Law Society of Ontario.
    • What if I have current contact information for the client but they won't cash my cheque?
      If the location of the client is known, the funds do not qualify for payment to the Unclaimed Trust Fund. You may wish to contact the Law Society to discuss options available to you in the circumstances of your case.
    • What if my client is now deceased and the funds have been inactive for two years?
      Prior to submitting an application to the Unclaimed Trust Fund, you should determine whether an Estate Trustee has been appointed who could direct payment of the funds. We recommend completing an estate search or contacting the appropriate funeral home to arrange for a family member to contact you.
    • How do I proceed if the funds relate to an estate matter and the Estate Trustee is not cooperating?
      If an Estate Trustee is appointed, the funds do not qualify for payment to the Unclaimed Trust Fund. If the Estate Trustee is not responding or cooperating, the appropriate avenue for disbursement would be an application to Court for direction.
    • What if I am holding funds pursuant to a settlement agreement, court order, or undertaking?
      If you are holding funds pursuant to a settlement, court order, or undertaking but the matter has languished, the appropriate avenue for disbursement would be an application to Court for direction.
    • What if there is a dispute over entitlement to the funds that I am holding?
      If there are competing claims to the trust funds, the funds do not qualify for payment to the Unclaimed Trust Fund. You should continue to hold the funds until the matter is resolved. If you are unable to resolve the issue regarding entitlement to and disbursement of these funds, please consider Rule 3.5-7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct:

      3.5-7  If a lawyer is unsure of the proper person to receive a client's property, the lawyer shall apply to a tribunal of competent jurisdiction for direction.

      If you are attempting to close your trust account, you may wish to arrange to transfer the funds to another colleague.
    • What if I am holding funds for an inactive federal or provincial corporation?
      These funds would not qualify for payment to the Unclaimed Trust Fund. Instead, funds should be paid to Industry Canada or the Provincial Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

      Ontario Corporations
      If you determine that the funds you are holding for disbursement to the client corporation escheat to the Crown under subsection 322.(1) of the Corporations Act and subsection 244(1) of the Business Corporations Act, you may wish to contact the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, Corporate Legal Services regarding disbursment of funds:

      Corporate Legal Services
      595 Bay Street
      Suite 800
      Toronto ON  M5G 2M6
      Tel: 416-326-1963
      Email: pgt-charities@ontario.ca 

      Federal Corporations
      If you determine that the funds you are holding for disbursment to the corporation escheat to the Crown under subsection 228.(1) of the Canada Business Corporations Act, you may wish to contact Industry Canada, Corporations Canada:

      9th Floor
      Jean Edmonds Towers South
      365 Laurier Avenue West
      Ottawa ON  K1A 0C8
    • If I cannot locate my client, can I render my account by providing a copy with my application?
      The Law Society cannot approve Licensee accounts. Your accounts are to be rendered to the client.

      If you cannot locate the client, then fees should not be taken from the balance held. However, you can be reimbursed for expenses (i.e. disbursements) incurred in searching for the client. Any such reimbursement should be completed prior to submitting your application and client ledger. 

      See By-Law 9, section 9 regarding the withdrawal of money from a trust account.
Terms or Concepts Explained