Taking Us for a (financial) Ride or Providing a Valuable Cost Effective Service?

Warning: this post is nought but wandering thoughts that wander about a topic.

The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services has a wide mandate, including the Victorian Seniors Card Program. They periodically send out emails that are educational, and some that include special offers.

This one caught my eye today.
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Looking at their fee schedule the 50% discount is funny math, but that is an issue I will give them leeway on. The T&C have a modest fee of $48.50 if one appoints State Trustees as executor or $100 if one does not, subject to some caveats including Depending on the nature of your affairs, additional fees and charges may apply. They have a fees schedule for their cafeteria of services linked to this fees page.

As Executors administering a deceased estate the fees allow them 1.3% of the value of the primary residence, 3.85% of other assets, and 5.5% of the gross value of the estate, or one can pay that bit more for their will service and appoint whomever.

While government and its agencies and companies might be in it for the money or not, they might be disinclined to undercut commercial entities for claims of unfair competitive advantages, yet they are ‘State (government) Trustees’ not ‘Big Bank Trustees’. nb. Our local solicitors charge $500~$750 for making a will so one conclusion is we pay one way or another. Then some lawyers will defend one’s rights to his/her last dollar; what then?

Perhaps State Trustees could be a bargain compared to our big four banks services, but. I wonder how many seniors naively succumb to appointing a 3rd party trustee rather than appointing their otherwise capable partners or trusted children as executors, situation dependent. Sometimes it may make sense to hire a ‘pro’ but for many seniors their estates are so simple, is this type of promotion that links making the will with managing a deceased estate potentially taking advantage by providing an opportunity to up-sell, or is it providing a service many need at a fair cost?

Since I handle my own affairs and am comfortable doing so, am I overly cynical in what many need?

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Yes it is possible, even for less than straight forward estates. There are some good guides available from each state govt web site. For more complex estates the same advice is worth considering.

We’ve been around the loop twice in the current decade. It is possible to DIY, perhaps with some help, although there can be substantial demands in respect of time and running around. In both instances there were a number of property and business matters to settle, or clarify.

In the first instance fortunately there was no need for probate. We agreed a fixed fee and costs schedule with the solicitors who prepared the original will. This was limited to services giving confirmation of the requirements for changes to property and effecting those that required title/legal amendments. The total costs were in the low thousands. Much less than the schedule of fees from the Public Trustee here in Qld.

For the second instance there was a need to obtain probate and two businesses to settle. The solicitor in this instance was the best/only practical way to progress the probate, clarify the steps needed for the major items in the will, and assisted with the settlement of the major assets. There was even more running around, and more time to manage the process which took nearly 18 months from beginning to end. Financially though the solicitors fees and costs (negotiated in advance) came in to total less than $10,000. The Public Trustee would have added at least another zero plus costs to the fee.

It was worth the effort in being able to control the outcomes, however it relies on the goodwill of the beneficiaries to make it as painless as possible.

Note:
If the executor is a beneficiary they cannot be paid for performing their duties. A point worth discussing with the solicitor when the will is drawn up.

It’s also worth noting that an executor can assign or delegate some of the work load to a solicitor, accountant etc, (for any work reasonably required). It’s obviously no longer a simple estate to settle. Anyone contemplating the DIY for such should seek some appropriate professional advice before deciding on what is best.

Note solicitors fees are negotiable and you you free to approach more than one before deciding on who you might choose to assist or act as executor on your behalf.

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One advantage of appointing or making your Will through these agencies is that the Will is discoverable. AFAIK there is no registry of Wills in Qld and I have been involved in two where a later Will has come to light, in one instance the solicitor refused to release it as his bill had not been paid.

The other is the standard of Executors that people nominate, totally underestimating the understanding and workload required. Titles not transferred, beneficiaries not notified and assets sold rather than transferred, assets misappropriated. Some of these are having repercussions decades later. Family are sometimes just too close and despite the express wishes in the Will the executors will do otherwise assuming they knew the deceased’s mind better than he/she did. Vague wording - “when they are old enough to understand …” to the Executor meant her 6 month old daughter was “old enough” but 20 years later the two working, adult nieces are still not. My grandmother altered her Will (that had been prepared by a solicitor) and in doing so caused a minefield of grief that saw a third of it wasted trying to find two family members who did not want to be located.

To my mind, and experience, the Public Trustee and professional help is worth the cost. Shop around, as the price for a simple or complex Will varies. The Trustee has a lot of experience selling real estate and in Trusts. I have a family member that can’t handle finance and is in danger of having his money misappropriated by relatives, so I am leaving him a Trust for life with the Public Trustee (also Adult Guardian) to administer it. As firms come and go, I am a little reluctant to place my Will with a new player.

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In Queensland, the Public Trustee offers will making free for all Queenslanders of any age…

https://pt.qld.gov.au/wills/about-wills/

From what I understand, one can also either nominate the Qld Public Trustee as the executor or another party is one chooses to do so.

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The success of a will depends on

  1. how it is written, so it is legal, clear, and enforcable,
  2. the beneficiaries as @mark_m pointed out, and
  3. those who feel that they have some entitlement to the estate.

I have seen and heard of so many cases where rapacious and sometimes internecine warfare breaks out not just from distant connections, but even among the closest of relatives. The scent of inheritance seems to bring out the absolute worst in people. It is amazing how close bonds are suddely and magically claimed with the nearly or recently departed.

This is why sometimes it is best to have an independent and skillful will drafter and executor. They presumably can’t be pressured or threatened by family or others so the final will can be carried out as desired.

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Very well stated.

As the old saying goes,where there is a will, there’s a way.

Or at least some uninvited grubs trying to take advantage of it.

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