A will is a legal document that details your final wishes and instructions for the distribution of your assets after your death. While a public trustee is a government-run organization that provides legal services to individuals, including the administration of estates, there are several reasons why you should consider instructing a Solicitor to draft your will and thereafter assist with the administration of the estate.

  • Tailored to your specific needs: A will created by a Solicitor can be tailored to meet your specific needs and goals. This will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your family is taken care of after you’re gone;
  • Peace of mind: A will created by a Solicitor will be legally binding and can provide peace of mind that your assets and loved ones will be taken care of according to your wishes. The public trustee, on the other hand, may not have the same level of expertise or knowledge of your specific needs and wishes;
  • Avoid potential complications: A well-drafted will can help avoid potential complications and disputes over the distribution of your assets. A public trustee may not have the same level of expertise or knowledge of the law, which can lead to mistakes or disputes; and
  • Cost savings in the long run: While paying for a will may seem like an additional expense, it can actually save you money in the long run. A poorly drafted will or mistakes made by the public trustee can lead to legal battles and additional expenses, which can add up quickly.

Australia has its own set of rules and regulations regarding the fees charged by public trustees for managing estates. In most cases, these fees are based on a percentage of the value of the estate, with a sliding scale based on the size of the estate. The exact fee schedule can vary depending on the state, so it’s best to consult the specific guidelines for the state in question to ensure you do not incur any unnecessary fees & charges.

Example of Fees

In New South Wales the Public Trustee outline their schedule online for various services including drafting of a will, executorship, and deceased estate management. Often, beneficiaries of Public Trustee appointed estate matters have complained about excessive fees, long delays in settlement and poor communication.

If you had a choice, which scenario would you choose?

a) Engage the Public Trustee to draft a free will, knowing your beneficiaries may be subject to high fees and delays; or

b) Draft a will through a Solicitor for a minimal fee, nominate the executor of your choice with minimal or nil fee and faster settlement.

A Public Trustee drafted will may save you money initially but will ultimately be funded by your beneficiaries – Example below.

Joe Citizen engaged the Public Trustee of NSW to draft a free will. The Public Trustee were noted as the Executors of the Estate. Joe sadly passes away the following year. The estate is worth $1.5 million dollars, and takes two years to settle. Using the NSW fee guide as at 1 February 2023, a one off executor fee of $19,800 plus estate management fee of $23,100, account keeping fee $264 plus various other costs will be deducted from the estate in the vicinity of $43,164. If a dispute arose under this scenario, those fees would increase.

* Fee Schedule as at 1st February 2023

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Public Trustee is a government agency and therefore subject to possible bureaucratic processes and delays. This can add unnecessary time, stress and cost to the estate administration process. In contrast, a Solicitor can often take a more streamlined approach and get things done more quickly and efficiently.

In conclusion, while both options have their benefits, choosing an executor over a Public Trustee can often be more cost-effective and efficient. By selecting someone you know and trust, you can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that the process is carried out smoothly and efficiently.

ABC program, Four Corners, broadcast a story on the Queensland Government who have issued two separate investigations after Four Corners report revealed exorbitant fees and dire financial mismanagement. You can view this investigation here Four Corners Investigation.

Salerno Law team of lawyers provide clear and timely advice and services on all areas of Wills and Estates law Australia-wide. Given that the legislative requirements for the construction and content of Wills, their execution, probate and administration and more changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is highly beneficial to engage legal professionals who are well-versed in these rules and regulations across all areas of Australia.

Author Kate Flett