TRUSTEES for wills

A serious decision, presumably being faced by many, is the choice of a trustee for administering their estate. But it seems difficult to get any information on how to chose. -

  • There is much critical public comment about Public Trustees.
  • Many law firms are advertising services, but there seem to be no independent reviews. I do note that some law firms post lists of reviews of their own services on their own websites! I have consulted COTA and various suggestions of theirs, who all are unable to make any constructive guidance beyond unfiltered listing of operators.
    Perhaps Choice members can contribute examples of good performance of organizations that have been found to provide conscientious service as trustees.

Welcome to the Choice community. You bring up some interesting points.

To me a trustee is a person who may have one or more of several roles regarding an individual and their estate. Some operate during the subject’s life others after death. Which roles are you interested in?

My personal choice was to give my children these roles should I become incapacitated (guardianship and power of attorney) and after my death (executor). I trust them to hold my interests as paramount during my life and to divide the spoils fairly in accordance with my will when I am gone - although any attempt to rule from the grave in any detail is probably pointless.

Those who are childless or who are estranged may not have that option. One does not need to have children to appoint somebody you know and trust but there is a practical problem in that the trustee needs to survive you and be competent until it is all over, which if they are your own age is a gamble.

I read terrible stories of appointed unrelated guardians being so miserly or careless that they can hardly be said to be looking after the best interests of the subject. Fortunately I was not in the position of having to look far.

It seems that an interested party, say an old friend or sibling, has very little scope to have a guardian’s actions reviewed or to have them dismissed. I would be interested to hear what kind of scope there is for intervention and action should a guardian be seen as being incompetent from those who know more about it.


Assuming you are referring to the circumstances of a deceased estate, there may be more than one response appropriate.

As @syncretic has sought some further clarification as to the initial enquiry. Trustee is used as a term in a number of different ways concerning deceased estates.

Is the question about whether one should appoint the Public Trustee as the executor of your estate, a solicitor - legal firm, or someone else?

For those very well off and with more complex needs there are also trust arrangements that may form part of a an estate settlement, to deliver tax advantages to the beneficiaries. There are also professionals who may encourage such arrangements as part of estate planing. These can be complex financial arrangements.


Yes indeed, how does one find out which trustees are trustworthy and competent as well as reasonably priced? For ordinary punters Public Trustees seem the safest and easiest but are they any good?

1 Like

There are many factors to consider when making this decision but they do not have to be difficult.

I am going to presume that when you use the term “trustee” you are using a term that is interchangeable with “executor”. If this is correct then the following may be of some assistance.

An executor can be a beneficiary of the will. What you cannot have is a beneficiary of a will being a witness of the same will.

You can have joint executors of a will. This can help if one executor is unable to perform their role as they have moved interstate. It also helps in ensuring transparency in the administration of the will. If you have two children who will be inheriting most of your estate and if they get on together this is often the best solution. Your solicitor will guide them in the resolution of the estate for a fee but they are usually pretty good at this.

Finally, if you really hate your heirs then use the public trustee as your executor. I can think of no better way of punishing them beyond the grave than that.

I hope this is of some assistance.


Welcome to the Commnity @DonF

That can be a costly assumption.

There are a number of reports such as this

This site has links to the PT in each state. It is a .com selling will services if one goes to their home page but the link will go directly to the list of PTs.

But at the end of the day ferreting through all of the potential issues and costs for each may be as difficult as discovering whether a specific surgeon is good, bad, or indifferent, what their final charge might be when all their ‘helpers’ put their hands out, or if they had charges or complaints filed.


Not assured but worth the effort to ask around friends and extended family of their experiences with local law firms etc. I tend to take this as a sample of one and weigh up the feedback, IE relative to how the friend offering their advice sees the world. For those who have made regular use of private accountant these often have dealings with estates and trusteeships. They may be willing to suggest local firms who are more experienced.

Reasonable pricing is difficult to define as quotes can be for fixed plus added/variable costs. Best to get more than two to get an understanding in advance, assuming one can define clearly the task at hand.


You’ve made incorrect assumptions in your reply. So, no assistance to me at all.

Perhaps if you explained more about your situation you would get better advice.

You may have provided some useful advice if you had simply addressed the questions, as other thoughtful respondents have done. Btw, I do not “hate” my heirs, who are 7 and 5 years old. As attractive and bright as my kids are I don’t consider they have, just yet, the necessary capacity to be executors of my will.

I think you are confusing me with somebody else as I didn’t mention them.

Hi DonF

You have now disclosed more information so I can make some comments that are hopefully more relevant. The “trustee” that you are looking for is or will be an executor of your estate should you die prematurely. The first assumption is that your wife will still be alive and she can fulfill the role of guardian of your children. (You have not disclosed whether you are still married or divorced - a better answer could be provided if we had that detail). Presuming that both you and your wife might pass away in an accident, people usually will ask a trusted relative to administer your estate in favour of your children ( I am presuming that you have a brother, sister, brother-in-law or sister-in-law or other near relative who you would trust to execute this role and act as a guardian for your children should both you and your wife pass away). Alternately, if there is nobody to step forward and if you have a good relationship with your solicitor they may agree to assume the role but they will bill your estate for their time. This might be a more applicable scenario in the event that you are divorced and want to provide for your children without giving the money to an ex-spouse.

The very last resort you should consider is to use a public trustee as they have very poor customer satisfaction by many reports.

1 Like

I understood what @Oilman was saying was that the Public Trustee is so bad that anyone
should only use them if the one who needs an executor, hated their heirs. If they don’t hate them then the Public Trustee should not be a choice they make. @Oilman did not mean that you may hate your heirs, in that regard I think you may have misunderstood the meaning of what they had posted.

If you have a trusted solicitor you could use them as executors for a fee (they should tell you what fees they will charge and you need to be aware they would take the fees from the estate), otherwise use a trusted friend or family member. Even better is a couple of or three people you trust, whatever your decision it is best you talk to a solicitor before preparing the will so you get the best advice about what to do. Then once you have that advice, seek out the people you want to act as your executors. Once they accept the role, then go back to the solicitor and complete your will, taking those who are going to be executors with you or a Statutory Declaration from them acknowledging they agree to be executors.


Sorry, my apologies.


While not designated in a will the WA Public Trustee appointed to manage this man’s affairs seems to have done what many would consider difficult to impossible. The message is it is best to look almost anywhere else, although diligence is required no matter where.


Indeed. Public trustees have had some bad publicity recently.

Prior to those stories, the general impression that I had for choice of a party to act as executor is

  • if the estate is small, the Public Trustee is OK
  • if the estate is larger than that, the Public Trustee is best avoided.

(And, no, I am not defining “small”.)

However I have also heard horror stories about lawyers taking years and years and years to finalise relatively straightforward estates and milking the estate for all it’s worth.

In most cases your best executor is two or more trusted heirs acting as co-executors, in my opinion.