How Much Does the Public Trustee Take from the Estate?

As with any service, due care and research should be undertaken to understand what is involved before accessing and signing up to services like those offered by the Public Trustee.
How Much Does the Public Trustee Take from the Estate?

An up-to-date and professionally written Will is one of the most important documents you will ever prepare. Like, ever. Writing a Will essentially allows you to continue caring for your loved ones, even after you’re gone. What you include in your Will will depend upon your individual circumstances, but it typically explains who will look after your dependent children or pets, and specifies how you would like your assets and property divided once you pass.

As part of making your Will, you will need to nominate a trustworthy individual or organisation to be responsible for eventually carrying out your wishes. Tasks might include selling property, distributing assets and making sure the beneficiaries named in the Will receive their inheritance. This person is called the Executor, and their role – of administering and finalising everything relating to the assets of the deceased person’s estate – can be quite complex. 

Due to the complexity of the Executor’s functions, It’s not unusual for the task to be left to the Public Trustee. They can be appointed as Executor in place of someone personally known to the testator. The logic behind this decision is often to avoid leaving the burden of this (sometimes complicated) task to loved ones at what would be an already difficult time.

What is the Public Trustee?

The Public Trustee is a statutory authority or government agency that exists in each state and territory, established for the purpose of providing services to the public on end-of-life matters. 

For example, on:

  • Acting as Executors and Trustees (either by appointment or when using their Will-making services)
  • Acting as Executor or administrator of last resort in situations when there is no one else
  • Estate planning
  • Obtaining probate and managing deceased estates
  • Managing trust funds
  • Acting as attorney when appointed under a power of attorney
  • Guardianship (where that function is part of their responsibilities)
  • Storage of Wills in some jurisdictions

The Public Trustee undertakes various aspects of estate planning and management by drawing on its resources of lawyers, accountants and estate experts to assist members of the public in understanding processes, making a plan or executing existing plans. A given agency will usually lay claim to administering an estate fairly, impartially and in the best interests of all concerned (we can neither confirm nor deny this!). We can, however, be quite sure that there are generally hefty fees involved, with a cut of the estate going to the Public Trustee, depending on the state or territory where the services are being accessed.

A couple of things to be weary of 

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for Australians to cite dealing with a Public Trustee as being one of the most stressful periods in their life, second only to the actual death of their loved one. This is often due to exorbitant fees being charged to carry out seemingly straightforward tasks that don’t realistically demand much of a specialist’s billable time.

Of course, you should do your own research, But judging by the comments we get on our social media mages, it would appear that Public Trustees overcharging deceased estates is a national trend. This is despite the fact that an Executor of an estate has a duty and obligation to maximise the benefit of the estate for the beneficiaries (and part of that obligation is to ensure the costs and losses from the estate are minimised).

Wrap up

Our comment sections on socials get quite crowded with commentary from everyday Aussies who feel they were caught off-guard by fees charged by Public Trustees. It’s important for us to draw some attention to this, given we understand the depth of grief that can be associated with navigating these (literal life and death) matters. 

Let us at Willed help you write your Will online in just 15 minutes, and provide access to countless other end-of-life planning resources for a fraction of the cost (and of the stress!).

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, medical, accounting or tax advice.

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