Managing Trust Accounts in QuickBooks: A Step-by-Step Guide

Discover what type is trust accounts liabilities in QuickBooks with our step-by-step guide. Ensure compliance and manage your trust accounts efficiently.


When managing client funds, what type is trust accounts liabilities in QuickBooks becomes a vital question. Trust liability accounts in QuickBooks are essential for tracking funds that do not belong to your business but are held on behalf of clients. These accounts ensure you’re compliant with legal and fiduciary requirements.

Quick Answer:

  • Type: Current Liabilities
  • Detail Type: Client Trust Accounts – Liabilities

Trust accounting can be complex, but it is essential for maintaining the integrity and legal compliance of your business. Law firms and other businesses that hold client funds in trust must accurately track these funds to avoid legal issues and maintain client trust.

Whether you use QuickBooks Online or Desktop, setting up and managing trust accounts correctly is crucial. With QuickBooks, you can create accounts to track both the trust funds received and any disbursements made, ensuring you always have a clear picture of your financial obligations.

So, let’s dive deeper into how to set up and manage these accounts properly in QuickBooks. But first, understanding the basics and importance of trust accounting will set a solid foundation for everything else.

Trust Accounting Basics Infographic - what type is trust accounts liabilities in quickbooks infographic pyramid-hierarchy-5-steps

Setting Up Trust Accounts in QuickBooks

Setting up trust accounts in QuickBooks is essential for managing client funds accurately and ethically. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Chart of Accounts

First, you need to set up your Chart of Accounts. This is where you’ll organize all your financial transactions. Think of it as a framework that categorizes your money flow.

  1. Navigate to Accounting: On the left menu, click on “Accounting.”
  2. Create New Account: Click the green “New” button at the upper right.
  3. Select Account Type: Choose “Bank” for trust bank accounts or “Other Current Liabilities” for trust liability accounts.

Liability Account

A Liability Account in QuickBooks is crucial for tracking money you owe to clients. This ensures you comply with legal ethics and accurately report your financial status.

  1. Account Type: Choose “Other Current Liabilities.”
  2. Detail Type: Select “Trust Accounts – Liabilities.” This is important because it helps QuickBooks and integrated tools like Clio recognize the account correctly.

Bank Account

Next, set up your Trust Bank Account. This is where you’ll deposit and withdraw client funds.

  1. Account Type: Select “Bank.”
  2. Detail Type: Choose “Trust Account” or “IOLTA Account” (Interest on Lawyers Trust Account).
  3. Name the Account: You can name it “Client Trust Checking Account” for clarity.

Detail Type

The Detail Type is a more specific classification within the account type. Correctly setting this ensures that your accounts sync properly with other software and meet regulatory requirements.

  1. Trust Bank Account: Detail Type should be “Trust Account.”
  2. Trust Liability Account: Detail Type should be “Trust Accounts – Liabilities.”

Example Scenario

Imagine you’re setting up a trust account for a new client. You’ll first create a “Bank” account with the detail type “Trust Account.” Then, set up a liability account with the detail type “Trust Accounts – Liabilities.” This ensures that when you integrate with software like Clio, all transactions sync correctly.

Pro Tip: Always consult with your accountant to ensure your setup meets legal and financial standards.

By following these steps, you’ll have a robust framework for managing trust accounts in QuickBooks, keeping your finances transparent and compliant with legal requirements.

Next up, we’ll dive into how to categorize trust transactions effectively.

Categorizing Trust Transactions

Understanding how to categorize trust transactions in QuickBooks is crucial for maintaining accurate records and ensuring compliance. Let’s break down the key components: Deposits, Invoices, Payments, Expenses, and Client Funds.


When you receive funds from a client, record these deposits correctly. For example, if Robert Andersen deposits $5,000 into the trust account, you should:

  1. Record a bank deposit into the Client Trust subaccount for Robert Andersen.
  2. Credit the Client Trust Liability subaccount for Robert Andersen.

This ensures both the asset (money in the bank) and the liability (money owed to the client) are accurately recorded.


When you bill a client for services, you’ll need to withdraw funds from the trust account to pay the invoice. Here’s how to handle it:

  1. Create an invoice for the client in QuickBooks. For instance, if you bill $1,000 for legal services, record this as:
  2. Debit Accounts Receivable: $1,000
  3. Credit Legal Services: $1,000

  4. Receive a customer payment to apply the trust funds to the invoice:

  5. Debit Undeposited Funds: $1,000
  6. Credit Accounts Receivable: $1,000


Next, you’ll need to transfer the funds from the trust account to your operating account to cover the invoice:

  1. Write a check from the trust account to the business, using the Client Trust Liability account.
  2. Record the transaction to ensure the Client Trust Account and Client Trust Liability balances are updated.


If you need to disburse funds from the trust account for client-related expenses, such as court fees, follow these steps:

  1. Write a check from the trust account to the payee (e.g., court).
  2. Debit the Client Trust Liability for the specific client subaccount.
  3. Credit the Client Trust Account for the same amount.

Client Funds

It’s vital to keep track of individual client balances within the trust account. This means setting up subaccounts for each client and ensuring every transaction is correctly categorized. For instance:

  • Deposit: Record the deposit in both the Client Trust Account and the corresponding Client Trust Liability subaccount.
  • Disbursement: Record the payment from the Client Trust Account and reduce the corresponding Client Trust Liability subaccount.

By following these steps, you’ll maintain accurate records and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

Next, we’ll explore Trust Accounting Compliance to help you avoid common pitfalls and stay on the right side of the law.

Trust Accounting Compliance

Trust accounting compliance is crucial for maintaining your fiduciary responsibility and avoiding severe penalties. Here are the key aspects you need to focus on:

No Commingling

One of the golden rules of trust accounting is no commingling. This means you must keep client funds separate from your firm’s operating funds. Mixing these funds can lead to severe legal consequences, including disbarment.

To achieve this, set up a separate bank account for client trust funds. Ensure that all deposits and withdrawals related to trust funds are only made through this account. For example, if you receive a $5,000 retainer from a client, deposit it directly into the trust account, not your operating account.

Separate Ledger

Maintaining a separate ledger for each client is essential. This ledger should track all receipts, disbursements, and the balance of the client’s funds held in trust. QuickBooks makes this easier by allowing you to create subaccounts under the main Client Trust Account.

For instance, if you have a client named John Doe, you would set up a subaccount for John Doe under the Client Trust Account. This way, you can easily track all transactions related to John Doe’s funds.

Regular Verification

Regular verification of your trust accounts is a must. This involves reconciling your bank statements with your QuickBooks records to ensure they match. Any discrepancies should be investigated and resolved immediately.

QuickBooks Online simplifies this process by allowing you to pull up reports like the Customer Balance Detail report. This report provides a detailed view of each client’s balance, helping you verify that your records are accurate.

State Bar Regulations

State bar regulations vary, but they all emphasize the importance of accurate trust accounting. Some states require you to provide detailed trust account statements to clients regularly. Others may have specific rules about how and when you can withdraw funds.

For example, in some states, you must provide a detailed statement of transactions for each client upon request. QuickBooks and tools like LeanLaw can help you generate these statements quickly, ensuring you’re always audit-ready.

It’s essential to consult with your accountant or bookkeeper to understand the specific regulations in your state and ensure you’re in compliance.

By following these guidelines, you’ll not only stay compliant but also build trust with your clients. Next, we’ll explore Advanced Trust Accounting Features with QuickBooks to streamline your processes even further.

Advanced Trust Accounting Features with QuickBooks

Clio Integration

Integrating Clio with QuickBooks Online can revolutionize your trust accounting process. Clio is a legal practice management software that syncs seamlessly with QuickBooks. This integration ensures that all your trust transactions, client invoices, and financial data are up-to-date and accurate.

For instance, when you invoice a client in Clio and pay the invoice with trust funds, Clio ensures you don’t overdraw the trust account. If a client has a trust balance of $3,500 and the invoice is $3,752, Clio only allows you to apply $3,500. This prevents negative balances and ensures compliance with legal ethics.

Trust Balance on Invoice

Including a client’s trust balance on their invoice is crucial for transparency and compliance. With QuickBooks alone, you would need to manually calculate and add this balance to each invoice. However, when integrated with Clio, this process is automated.

Clio’s billing features allow you to choose a bill theme that automatically includes the current trust balance on the invoice. This not only saves time but also ensures that your clients are fully informed about their trust fund status.

Financial Data Sync

One of the standout features of QuickBooks Online is its ability to sync financial data seamlessly. This is especially beneficial when managing trust accounts. By syncing your trust transactions, client details, invoices, and payments between Clio and QuickBooks, you eliminate the need for duplicate data entry.

This synchronization ensures that your financial records are always accurate and up-to-date. It also makes end-of-month reconciliations straightforward and stress-free.

Automated Workflows

Automation is a game-changer in trust accounting. QuickBooks Online, paired with Clio, offers automated workflows that streamline your accounting processes. For example, when you receive a client payment, the transaction is automatically recorded in both QuickBooks and Clio.

This automation reduces the risk of errors and ensures that all transactions are accurately tracked. It also saves you time, allowing you to focus more on your legal practice rather than on manual accounting tasks.

By leveraging these advanced trust accounting features in QuickBooks, you can ensure your trust accounting is not only compliant but also efficient and transparent.

Next, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about trust accounts in QuickBooks to address common concerns and provide further clarity.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trust Accounts in QuickBooks

What is a Trust Liability Account?

A Trust Liability Account in QuickBooks is a type of liability account used to track funds that you hold in trust for your clients. These funds do not belong to you or your business; they are held on behalf of your clients and must be kept separate from your operating funds.

For instance, a law firm might hold client retainers in a trust account until they are earned. This ensures transparency and compliance with legal fiduciary responsibilities.

Imagine you receive a $5,000 retainer from a client. This amount is deposited into a trust bank account and recorded as a liability because it is money you owe to the client until you earn it through services rendered.

How Do I Categorize Trust Transactions in QuickBooks?

Categorizing trust transactions in QuickBooks involves several steps to ensure accuracy and compliance:

  1. Deposits: When you receive funds for the trust account, record them as a deposit in the trust bank account. Use the client’s name and categorize it under the Trust Liability Account.

  2. Invoices: When you bill the client for services, create an invoice. This will increase your Accounts Receivable.

  3. Payments: When you transfer funds from the trust account to your operating account to cover the invoice, record this as a payment against the invoice. This reduces the liability in the trust account and records revenue in your operating account.

  4. Expenses: If you need to disburse funds from the trust account for client-related expenses, write a check or create an expense transaction. Categorize this under the Trust Liability Account with the client’s name.

  5. Client Funds: Always ensure that the total in your trust bank account matches the total of your trust liabilities. This is crucial for compliance and accurate reporting.

What Are Client Trust Liabilities?

Client Trust Liabilities are the funds that you hold on behalf of your clients. These liabilities are recorded in a Trust Liability Account in QuickBooks and must always be equal to the amount held in the corresponding trust bank account.

If your trust bank account holds $20,000, your Client Trust Liability Account should also reflect $20,000. This ensures that every dollar in the trust account is accounted for and associated with a specific client.

Case Study:
A law firm managed their trust accounts using QuickBooks and faced an audit. By maintaining accurate records in their Trust Liability Account, they were able to demonstrate that all client funds were properly accounted for, avoiding any legal repercussions.

Trust accounting example - what type is trust accounts liabilities in quickbooks

By understanding what type is trust accounts liabilities in QuickBooks and how to manage them, you can ensure compliance, transparency, and efficient financial management for your business.

Next, let’s explore common compliance requirements and advanced features to make trust accounting even more seamless.


At Pace CPA, we understand that managing trust accounts can be complex and time-consuming. However, with the right tools and practices, you can ensure compliance, transparency, and efficient financial management.

Best Practices for Trust Accounting

  1. Keep Trust and Business Funds Separate: Always maintain separate bank accounts for trust funds and operating funds. This avoids commingling and ensures you can provide clear, accurate accounting.

  2. Regular Reconciliation: Regularly reconcile your trust accounts. This means matching the bank account balance with the trust liability account balance and individual client balances. This practice ensures accuracy and compliance with legal requirements.

  3. Detailed Record-Keeping: Maintain detailed records of all transactions. Include deposits, payments, and any expenses paid from the trust account. This documentation is crucial for transparency and for meeting state bar regulations.

  4. Use Advanced Tools: Leverage tools like QuickBooks and Clio to automate and streamline trust accounting processes. These tools can help you manage transactions, generate reports, and ensure compliance with ease.

  5. Stay Informed About Regulations: Trust accounting rules and regulations can vary by jurisdiction. Stay updated on your state’s requirements to ensure your practices are compliant.

Partner with Experts

Navigating trust accounting can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Pace CPA, we specialize in fiduciary tax services and trust accounting. Our expertise can help you manage your trust accounts accurately and efficiently, ensuring you meet all legal and ethical standards.

Reach out to us today to learn how we can assist you with your trust accounting needs. Together, we can create a plan that protects your assets and honors your fiduciary responsibilities, providing peace of mind for you and security for your clients.

By following these best practices and leveraging the right tools, you can handle trust accounting with confidence and precision. Let us help you manage your trust accounts effectively, so you can focus on what you do best—serving your clients.


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