IOLTA/IOTA Frequently Asked Questions
Title insurance agents: In addition, all title insurance agents (regardless of whether or not they are lawyers) and title insurance companies (that receive escrow funds and maintain the funds in a pooled escrow account) must establish an IOTA.
An attorney or title agent may establish an IOLTA or IOTA at any bank, savings & loan association, credit union or savings bank that is authorized to transact business in the state of Ohio. Most, but not all, financial institutions in the state currently participate in Ohio’s IOLTA/IOTA program. You may contact the Foundation to confirm whether the bank where you would like to establish an account is a participating bank. This website also provides additional advice on choosing a financial institution for your account.
The interest earned on all IOLTA and IOTA generates revenue for Ohio’s legal aid fund. By depositing IOLTA/IOTA funds in a Prime Partner financial institution, attorneys are increasing the dollars available to support civil legal aid services in the state, and ultimately, increasing access to justice for all Ohioans.
The federal tax identification number (EIN) assigned to all Ohio IOLTA/IOTA is 31-1126612. Financial institutions should not assign an individual’s or firm’s tax I.D. number to the account. There are no tax consequences to a lawyer or escrow agent, the client of a lawyer or escrow agent, a participating law firm or title company or the recipient legal aid organization.
- Retainers received from clients, until they are actually earned;
- Funds which belong in part to the client and in part to the lawyer;
- Funds of the client that are being held for disbursement at a later time;
- Personal injury settlements and awards;
- Deposits required to close property transactions;
- Prepaid court costs.
The above is a list of examples of funds that are to be deposited into an IOLTA or IOTA. There may be other types of funds that should also be deposited into IOLTA or IOTA. Unless an escrow or client’s trust account is established for the sole benefit of that client, all pooled client trust accounts must be either an IOLTA or IOTA.
The Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline has offered Advisory Opinions on how attorneys should handle these fees. These opinions are informal, nonbinding opinions in response to prospective or hypothetical questions regarding the application of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio, the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Judiciary, Rules of Professional Conduct, the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Attorney’s Oath of Office. You may access these opinions from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Web site. Op. 89-07 – deposit of retainer in separate identifiable bank account and Op. 96-4 – Flat fee in criminal defense representation deposited into business account.
Attorneys may allow clients the ability to pay costs and expenses related to the representation of the client with the client’s credit card. However, the attorney is responsible for any brokerage charges or fees associated with the use of a credit card. This fee, like other service charges, must be paid from the attorney’s operating account and not from the interest earned on the client’s trust account. If a client gives an attorney $10,000 using a credit card, then $10,000 must remain in the client’s trust account for the agreed upon use of these funds. You may access Op 2007-3 from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website.
The rule may have ethical implications when applied to IOLTA accounts: if client funds are not immediately available due to the enforcement of the withholding penalty, the responsible attorney may face ethical violations. Attorneys and law firms should have received notice from the credit card processor if information does not match. If notice was not received, attorneys and law firms are encouraged to contact the credit card processor immediately to verify that information matches as required by Rule 6050W, and to correct any mismatches immediately.
Funds held in a lawyer’s IOLTA or IOTA may become Attorney Unclaimed Funds, a new category of unclaimed funds. Effective April 12, 2021, the Ohio Revised Code includes Attorney Unclaimed Funds and authorizes the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation to use these funds to support civil legal aid and access to justice.
Attorney Unclaimed Funds include:
- Unclaimed IOLTA funds held pursuant to R.C. 4705.09
- Unclaimed IOTA funds held pursuant to R.C. 3953.231; and
- Unclaimed residual settlement funds, whether for named or unnamed plaintiffs.
See R.C. 169.01(L).
The Division of Unclaimed Funds has created a unique property code for Attorney Unclaimed Funds – TR88. Use this code when reporting such funds to the Division of Unclaimed Funds.
Please visit the Foundation’s Attorney Unclaimed Funds FAQ for more information or contact:
Financial Director, Ohio Access to Justice Foundation
Compliance/Audit Manager, Division of Unclaimed Funds
Yes. The payment should be deposited directly into the lawyer’s IOLTA. Lawyers, however, should be aware of the fees that these payment services charge and should discuss the fees with their clients prior to payment and reach an agreement with the client as to who will be responsible for the fees.
FAQ Concerning Attorney Registration
Upon admission to the bar, and then every two years, you will receive a Certificate of Registration from the Supreme Court of Ohio. This form includes a section to register your IOLTA/IOTA. In between biennial registrations, the attorney is to register new accounts, provide account updates and/or IOLTA/IOTA status changes by visiting the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation’s website or contacting the Foundation directly. The Foundation offers an online registration option for attorneys to update their IOLTA/IOTA status changes. You will need your attorney registration number and if you need to report the opening of an account, you will need the account number and name of financial institution where the account has been established.