Public Trustee (Qld)
The Public Trustee of Queensland is a statutory authority governed by the Public Trustee Act 1978. It is a self-funded organisation with a purpose to provide professional and accessible services in deceased estate administration, trusts, will making, and financial management for those with impaired capacity.
The Act states the Public Trustee can be appointed or act as a “trustee, executor, administrator, next friend, guardian, committee, agent, attorney, liquidator, receiver, manager or director or to or in any other office of a fiduciary nature”.
This allows the Public Trustee to provide a wide range of services for the public, including:
- a free will-making service;
- making an enduring power of attorney;
- deceased estate management, including the sale of property;
- financial administration for people with impaired capacity;
- management of investments and trusts for minors, those with a disability, or for philanthropic trusts and organisations;
- other services such as holding unclaimed money.
To perform these services, the Act grants the Public Trustee all the powers of an individual, which means the organisation can, for example:
- enter into contracts;
- acquire, hold, dispose of and deal with property;
- appoint lawyers, brokers, accountants, consultants or other professionals;
- fix charges and other terms for services and supplies.
It can exercise these powers inside and outside of Queensland.
The Public Trustee creates wills free of charge as a community service. The service is aimed at people who have simple asset structures. However the service is available to a person who has significant assets or complex asset structures such as businesses or partnerships.
The service involves a staff member discussing a person’s wishes, preparing a will according to the person’s instructions, providing a copy of the will and an acknowledgement of advice, and offering free secure storage of the will.
The Public Trustee can be appointed as the executor of a will under usual circumstances. It also be appointed when:
- the executor chooses not to accept the responsibility;
- the executor does not live in Queensland, has died, or does not act within 3 months;
- there is no will and next of kin request this.
The organisation charges a fee based on the work involved, not a percentage commission.
Management of deceased estates
The Public Trustee can handle all tasks in deceased estate administration, including:
- confirming the will is valid;
- obtaining a grant of probate;
- locating and notifying beneficiaries;
- verifying and protecting assets;
- collecting and transferring assets;
- determining and paying debts and liabilities;
- managing tax affairs.
Enduring power of attorney
If a person loses the capacity to make decisions, for instance due to an acquired brain injury or dementia, an enduring power of attorney can take effect. The attorney can be appointed to handle financial and/or personal and health matters. A financial attorney can deal with matters such as managing investments, paying debts and preparing tax returns. The Public Trustee can be appointed as a financial attorney or as a “nominated person” to receive information about a person’s financial matters.
The Public Trustee can act as a financial administrator to manage the financial affairs of a person who has impaired capacity. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the court can make the appointment. Financial administration can include:
- payment of accounts;
- managing income and investments;
- financial planning;
- managing real estate;
- providing legal services.
The Public Trustee can be involved in the sale of real estate in many circumstances but often this is because it has been appointed executor of a deceased estate and property is required to be sold as part of the distribution of assets according to the will. The organisation’s preferred method of selling property is by auction. A contract for a property at a Public Trustee is a cash, unconditional contract. i.e. it cannot be subject to finance or any other condition such as a pest and/or building inspection.
The Public Trustee can be entrusted to hold unclaimed money, which is money owed to a person, company, organisation, or deceased estate that has not been claimed after a statutory period of time. Unclaimed money can be held from sources such as hospitals, prisons, solicitors, real estate agencies, or employers.
For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.