Q: I have just read an article about public trustees and noted how greedy and wrong the whole department seems to have become. My wife and I are both retired and have long been trying to access information about how to completely avoid a public trustee with regard to our will and estate on our future passing. I was not aware until recently that if a deceased person has $50,000 or more in a bank account, the public trustee will automatically be involved. How can we avoid the involvement of a public trustee with our will?
A: I’m not going to comment generally on the performance of the office of the public trustee except to say that some people have good experiences with them and others do not. In respect to your specific concern about them becoming automatically involved if the estate consists of more than $50,000, that would only happen if there was no one else entitled to or able to administer a person’s estate and only where the estate was worth less than $150,000. So, for example, where an Executor appointed in a Will doesn’t want to take on the role, if they can’t be found or if there is no Will and no one in the family is prepared to be the administrator of the estate. The public trustee becomes, in effect, the executor of last resort simply because no one else appropriate is able or willing to do the job.
The best way to avoid their involvement in your affairs is to do a proper Will. That means doing a Will, and doing it well. But, if you want to do it on the cheap and do it yourself – go ahead. You might save yourself some money but you may also cost your beneficiaries a lot of money. I can’t tell you how many times a DIY Will has ended up in Court because it wasn’t done properly (just cheaply).
That means a lot of money in an estate is being diverted to lawyers in having to fix the problems created by the ‘Do It Yourselfer’. You might think your beneficiaries will thank you for your generosity in your Will but they won’t if they have to go to Court over it. You might have saved yourself some money but it will cost them.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.