Law Firm Practice Area: Estate Planning
The next practice area that we are going to discuss is estate planning. This area of law tends to be a practice area with very long and lengthy trust matters. What does that mean for bookkeepers and accountants with clients in this field? It means that you will be dealing with clients with lengthy trust matters over multiple years of time. Trust accounting is the largest body of work when working with an estate planning law firm.
Considerations when providing data migration
Whenever we perform a data migration on this type of practice area, it involves a lot of historical rebuilding of the trust matters. We’ve had some clients that we’ve rebuilt trust matters back to the early 2000s. Can you imagine seeing a matter with a register that large? Much of this work is not a data push, it is manual entries.
Additionally, some firms have a very long list of open trusts. Obviously, managing trust matters is the pinnacle of this practice area. Some firms we have worked with have had upwards of over 2000 matters. This complicates the workflow.
Do not be alarmed if you open up an account receivable summary aging report and see a lot of uncollected invoices. His practice area is heavily regulated and controlled by when the court deems it’s time to release the funds to the attorney.
Specialty accounts and lingo
You may see trust accounts that look like duplicates but, in fact, are called D accounts. The D is a designated account, and it is controlled by the courts when funds can be distributed. So, the law firm waits until they are able to legally move the money from the trust to the operating bank account. That is definitely one of the things you will see as a difference from most law firms. This is also the reason you’re going to see a larger amount in the accounts receivable open balance area.
You will see terms like revocable trust, irrevocable trust, probate, and multiple family names listed underneath the client-parent trust account. Many times, you might see an account that looks like this:
Trust liability: client trust accounts
- Sub trust liability: estate of Lynda Artesani
- Sub trust liability: estate of Lynda Artesani D Account.
- Sub sub-trust account: revocable trust dated 10/15/2007
Other than those items, the same workflows tend to apply. It’s really nothing significantly different from this practice area from most.
The larger the firm, the more need to track revenue by an attorney using class tracking.
When we do data migrations, we tend to lean heavily on the custom fields that we can create on the invoices for our clients. This is where QuickBooks online advanced is the product we recommend. It allows us to create custom fields like using the date type custom field for the date of original estate/will, etc.
We will also recommend a law firm track revenue by attorney/timekeeper and, of course, the utilization rate. Larger firms are always in need of tracking staff production KPIs. Since the matters are lengthy, it’s nice to track the profitability of the trust or matter.
If you’re in need of an accounting firm or bookkeeper to handle your estate planning law firm, reach out to us. We work with multiple firms in this practice area.