Last session, the law (HB 643) was changed to require attorneys to maintain a separate trust account for real estate transactions and to permit it to be audited by their title insurers. This law was drafted carefully to comply with Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 93-5. That opinion validates exactly this practice and recognizes that such audits are necessary to ensure the safety of the client’s funds. This has been a normal practice for many insurers ever since.
After the law passed, several questions were raised by some pretty good lawyers.
• Isn’t this a violation of an attorneys duty of confidentiality. – Ethics opinion 93-5 says it is not.
• Does this mean I have to maintain a separate trust account for each client? – No the express language of the statute says “all funds (plural) received in connection with transactions (plural) … [go] into a separate trust account (singular).
• Does each attorney have to maintain their own trust account – or may all attorneys in a firm use the firm trust account.
Several of us have suggested that all of these questions are answered by a plain reading of the statute and the existing ethics opinion. They feel there is no need to change anything.
However, questions have been forwarded to the Florida Bar Ethics committee, and they have asked RPPTL Section for comment and suggestion. I’m actively participating in the committee working on the RPPTL response.