PUBLIC TRUSTEE NOT SUCH A FREE CHOICE


Criticism of Queensland’s Public Trustee over high fees and charges highlights the importance of carefully considering who should be appointed to act as an executor to Wills and Estates, says leading legal firm Creevey Russell Lawyers.


The Queensland government has announced a board will oversee the Public Trustee after a Public Advocate’s report into the Public Trustee exposed issues such as high fees for asset-rich pensioners, fees for no service and routine profiteering from cash assets.


Creevey Russell Principal Dan Creevey said while the Public Trustee does not charge commissions when acting for a deceased estate, often its fixed fees can be so substantial that an estate can quickly dwindle and leave little for the beneficiaries.


“Choosing the Public Trustee of Queensland as an executor sounds appealing to many Will-makers as a ‘safe-choice’ to impartially administer your estate on behalf of your family members, but unfortunately this has led to unintended consequences for some Will-makers and their intended beneficiaries,” Mr Creevey said.


Creevey Russell commercial lawyer, Jake Cho, said in its Fees and Charges notices, the Public Trustee has established a ‘standard units of effort’ to measure its fees.


“As a basic example, the most recent Public Trustee Fees and Charges notice sets out that dealing with a motor vehicle is worth 20 units each; a solely owned real estate property is 40 units; livestock 30 units each; farm machinery 30 units each; and superannuation fund benefit paid to the estate is 40 units each,” Mr Cho said.


“This means an owner of a farm with machinery, livestock, with a house, superannuation and a motor vehicle would have accumulated at least 160 points from the Public Trustee and a fee of $4,432 to administer these assets. “


Mr Creevey said to ensure that as much of your estate goes to your intended beneficiaries, instead of directly appointing a professional firm (or the Public Trustee of Queensland) as an executor to your will, consider appointing a trusted friend or a family member, who can then engage a professional to assist.


“The advantage here is that it enables someone that you trust to make an informed decision in choosing how much assistance they will need and the fees that will be involved,” he said.


“If no immediate family or friend comes to mind to take the role as a main executor, or as a substitute to the main executor, consider speaking with a professional firm and reviewing their fees with respect to estate administration prior to appointing them in your Will.”


If you have an enquiry that you would like to discuss today, please do not hesitate to contact us at (07) 4617 8777 or creeveyrussell@crlawyers.com.au