How public trustees can help you

Specialist services offered by each state’s public trustee office are designed to be accessible to vulnerable individuals who need help managing their financial, legal or estate affairs.

However, many of these services are also available to all Australians. Public trustee officers are highly trained to deal with issues involving:

    • will preparation and storage
    • executor services and deceased estate administration
    • enduring powers of attorney preparation
    • acting as attorney under powers of attorney
    • financial and legal administration for people who have lost capacity
    • private and charitable trusts
    • financial elder abuse
    • genealogy

You may also be eligible to receive assistance from your state’s public trustee with matters involving the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The services tend to be priced competitively or even lower than standard legal fees for services such as will preparation or administration of deceased estates. In Victoria, where the office is known as State Trustees, there are one-off commissions and proportionate fees on income for managing the estates of those who have lost capacity and are subject to an administration order. For example, a charge of 3.3 per cent (inclusive of GST) is levied on income from pensions and allowances, and 6.6 per cent on income from other sources, to manage a pensioner’s financial affairs.

So, if you are a single full age pensioner with no other income and you need help staying up to date with your bills and other financial matters, the Victorian trustee service will cost around $817 a year – that’s 3.3 per cent of your $24,770 yearly pension.

If you have income from another source, such as superannuation, the annual fee is 6.6 per cent of the gross amount.

Public trustees may also charge commissions on asset values to manage assets. State Trustees charges a one-off fee to manage a lump sum below $500,000 of 3.3 per cent. For instance, if you have savings or an investment worth $200,000, State Trustees would charge a one-off commission of $6600 to manage it. Fees to manage lump sums of between $500,000 and $1 million are $16,500 plus 1.5 per cent of the amount over $500,000.

Most clients actively choose to use public trustee services, but individuals who are no longer capable of administering their financial or legal circumstances may also have their affairs administered by the public trustee under an order from a small claims tribunal. In Victoria, the order would be made by the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT).

For this to occur, a doctor would have to decide that the person was unable to make reasoned choices about their financial and legal affairs, a spokesman for State Trustees said.

An application can then be made to the state’s small claims tribunal by anyone – a GP, case worker, friend or relative – for an administration order to be made in respect of the person. The application needs to be accompanied by a medical report stating that the individual in question is unable to make reasoned decisions about their financial and legal affairs.

The tribunal then determines if there is a disability that prevents that person from making reasonable decisions about their finances and legal affairs. If that is found to be the case, an administration order is made, if there are no other less-restrictive options available.

To learn more about the services offered by the public trustee in your state, visit this website.

Are you aware of anyone who has used a public trustee service? If so, what has their experience been? Would you consider the service for your own financial affairs? Or would you prefer to use corporate services?

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Written by Olga Galacho

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