Explained: Public trustees and your finances

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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 in staying up to date with your bills and other financial matters, the Victorian trustee service will cost around $780 a year – that’s 3.3 per cent of your $23,600 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.

Victoria’s State Trustees has more than 11,450 personal administration clients, 670 power of attorney clients, and 5000 trust clients. and administers deceased estates for about 4500 estate beneficiaries. In total, it administers $2.26 billion in funds on behalf of clients.

Most of these 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 the national arm’s 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


Total Comments: 60
  1. 0

    What a lovely unpaid advertisement for what is “NOT” a “public trustee” any more in Victoria. It is very much a for profit corporation and should not be confused with other “legitimate” “Public Trustees”.
    What qualifications do employees of the Sate Trust Corporation of Victoria demand to provide all of that so called “advice”? Are they any different to any other for profit “financial institution”?
    Caveat Emptor!!!

  2. 0

    Competitive my ass. Vic charged $30k to administer my father’s simple $280k estate and took a year to process it.

  3. 0

    Public Trustees are VERY costly.
    Write a Will get a reliable family member to execute it and the recipients will thank you for the extra money in their pockets.
    If the Will is fair and simple there won’t be any disputes.

    • 0

      What other options are there if you don’t have a family member or friends that want to take on the task? Can you even trust a lawyer or accountant?

  4. 0

    The public trustee, at least in Qld, is a business. My mother paid $130 a ftn to administer her finances. Considering all her payments were made automatically by direct debit I don’t know how they justify their charges. Plus they did not protect my mother from financial abuse by her carer/daughter.

  5. 0

    Bit of a worry that people will buy into this blatant sales pitch without due diligence . Have seen them in action and I would warn against using them unless ABSOLUTELY necessary . They are very much profit oriented , care little for the client or family they supposedly represent and will dwindle down whatever funds they can lay their hands on . Once involved they have total control . Buyer beware !

  6. 0

    I’m always suspicious when someone puts the words ‘trust’ and ‘money’ in the same sentence.

  7. 0

    Years ago, while on DSP, I used the ACT Public Trustee to make my Will, Power of Attorney papers. I did understand they would be the Executor and take a fee. Recently my circumstances changed and I rang them to review my legal documents. Could not get an appointment, the person at the desk very rude. I rang again a month later, still unable to get an app’t. I needed it done soon so my daughter could sign POA papers when in town. I rang a solicitor, got it all done very swiftly and to my satisfaction, including Advance Care Directive. Yes, I paid them but it gave me peace of mind. Wrote a letter of complaint to the relevant ACT Minister, no answer. Rang a month later and they said they were “busy”. Finally the Public Trustee got back to me, wanting to know if they were still going to be my Executor. No way. Unless desperate and having no funds, I would not touch them with a barge pole. The final thing came when I lodged my POA papers in Canberra and signed to say this was taking the place of previous POA. Guess what? The Public Trustee had not lodged my previous POA papers. People had told me not to use the Public Trustee and now I know why.

  8. 0

    My father had his will with the Public Trustee of NSW. He was on the OAP when he died. There was his modest home and $5,000 in a term deposit. I have a huge file of all the errors. Slow doesn’t even cover it. Every time we rang there was a new person dealing with the case and no activity since the last phone call. They charged and charged even insisting on using their own agent to sell the house. The house sold quickly but there was a long wait for release of funds. The whole thing took nearly a year, how long if it had been complicated. Dad thought he was making it easier. I would never recommend them

    • 0

      Since they are essentially Financial Services managers, wonder if you and others with real experience of such shoddy dealings could not refer these cases to the Royal Commission into this sector?

    • 0

      I was also wondering if the Royal Commissions investigations into financial dealings would look into the Public Trustee sector I certainly think its warranted.Maybe someone from Life Choices can pull a few strings to help make it happen.

  9. 0

    They cannot be trusted. Crooked bunch of thieves, when my aunt died $30,000-00 went missing from her estate. I told them I had proof of this and was going to my solicitor. Within 10 minutes I received a phone call saying they had found the missing money. Still spoke to my solicitor, he said their charges appeared to be excessive. After he contacted them I received a letter saying they would refund the charges if I signed a statement stating that I would drop all charges against them. They are not a goverment organization as the name implies, but a privately owned organization run by a bunch of heartlesss thieving p—–ks.

  10. 0

    I think ylc should apologise to it’s readers for this shocking article

    • 0

      I asked ‘why’ because I was interested in what you might add. I do agree and know what you are saying. I sincerely hope Olga reads all these people’s experiences and realise not to place an ad such as this without knowing the BAD side of it.

      I was very fortunate to have a good solicitor who stood by me in dealing with PT and he stood his ground when PT wanted to take the Will and my mother’s estate in their grubby, filthy hands. They were very reluctant to hand it all over to my solicitor.

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