As a general rule, attorneys in Florida should keep their assets separate from assets owned by a client or other third party. This is generally true whether the asset is a tangible item or money held in a bank or any other type of account. It is also imperative for an attorney to keep thorough records of any transactions that occur involving a client’s money. Those records should be kept on file for at least five years after an attorney-client relationship ends.
An individual may ask for these records at any time during or after a proceeding. Client funds will ideally be kept in a bank account in the state where the attorney is licensed to practice. However, funds can be kept elsewhere if a client consents to an alternate arrangement. A client trust must be created to hold any money that an individual provides an attorney in advance.
The attorney may only withdraw funds from the trust as they are earned or as expenses are accrued. An attorney may add money to a bank account up to the amount needed to cover bank charges or other account fees. Legal representatives are to keep items in their possession if two or more people claim ownership to it. Those items must be returned to their rightful owners if a resolution is reached.
If an attorney uses client property for his or her benefit, that may be considered legal malpractice. A client may have the right to take legal action in an effort to reclaim property or the market value of any items improperly sold or transferred. Other financial damages might be available depending on the circumstances of the case.