Having looked after my widowed and elderly mum for nearly 20 years and providing her with financial, physical and emotional support, my mum chose to leave most of estate, that I helped her to build, to overseas family. Without my knowledge, she appointed the Public Trustee to administer this estate.
Foolishly and due to my strong sense of loyalty and compassion for my mum, I always placed her and her needs first and acted in her best interest, to my own detriment. Being under the impression that I would eventually reap the rewards of my efforts from her estate. Her will and a spiteful letter she left me opened my eyes to how she and my family appreciated these efforts on her behalf. I was almost written out of her will, close to being 50 years of age. I suddenly faced everything I worked for over the past 20 years about to be given to people who did very little for mum, including my sister that claimed to be very close to her. I had a choice to walk away with this nothing or to fight for a better share of the estate.
I chose the latter and hired Turnbull Hill Partners to represent me in the Family Court. They immediately arranged a caveat on the estate and informed the Public Trustee that I intended to contest mum’s will. Thus began 3 years of personal hell with the Public Trustee, my family and various authorities. I informed the Public Trustee soon after mum’s death that I was the only one caring for mum and building her estate and had detailed proof of this. I offered the relevant family members more just and generous settlements that they, driven by greed, chose to decline. From here on, the Public Trustee, my sister and my family went into a life and death mode to hang on to mum’s estate, in this manner:
· When I asked them to change the locks on mum’s house due to my sister’s looting the estate, they did so and locked ME out. Allowing my sister to keep on looting
· They were happy for my sister having taken mum’s expensive TV, without my permission. Yet they insisted on my giving them less money I collected for selling some of her things, with their permission.
· They took away whatever was left in the three bedrooms, fully furnished house and valuable garage and gardening tools. In spite of repeated requests by me, I was never informed of where her things went. They did, however, present the estate with a bill of $300 for the LOSSES that this action incurred
· Even though there were developers willing to pay $1mil for her property at the time of her death, the Public Trustee refused to release it for sale for 8 months
· Being the public servants that they are, they happily paid huge water rates on an unoccupied property having a burst pipe. Disconnecting the water obviously never occurred to anyone. Neither did keeping the garden net and tidy, again inspite of my repeated requests
· Some time before mum’s death, I bought a car to be able to drive her and her dog to shopping and various doctors. To save paying yearly registration, mum suggested I keep the car in her name. When this came to the attention to the Public Trustee, they offered me to BUY MY car that I already bought with my own money from her estate for $3000! As it wasn’t worth it for me, I was required to surrender it for them to sell. Some of my friends offered to pay $1500 for it. The Public Trustee didn’t agree and sold it for $700!
· They left the best for last, i.e. mum’s house that I helped her to buy, take care of and grow in value. Aside for providing a beautiful home for her that I took care of on weekly basis while my sister was always “too busy”, building her own career and assets. Allowing themselves to be heavily manipulated by my sister and family, the Public Trustee finally put up the house for sale after 8 months when its value dropped by almost half. Observing this behavior, I was advised to try and buy it from the Public Trustee, if I was to get anything from the estate
· The Public Trustee organised an auction at long last and consistently refused to let me know the reserve price. I organised a loan and a friend to do the bidding on my behalf because I didn’t want to bid amongst the vultures that had gathered at the house for the kill. As soon as the auction started, it became obvious that games were being played and the Public Trustee had no intention of selling the property. Unfortunately for them, my sister and family, I and another person were determined to get it and fought it out amongst ourselves. I was the first one to reach the reserve price, set at $100K above the then market value! To everyone’s consternation, I ended up with the property and took on a huge financial burden for the next 7 years until I sold it
· With this purchase, karma immediately set into action for everyone involved. In their blind greed and fight for the estate, I, my sister and other family members were required to present claims and financial situation to the Family Court. The presiding judge was no fool and saw matters exactly for what they were. Because of that and due to the dire financial situation that my family and the Public Trustee thrust me into, he awarded ME most of the estate. Family members received token amounts that were nowhere near what I offered them at the time of mum’s death. My sister received some amount, simply for being mum’s daughter. Never contributing anything to mum’s estate or supporting either parents or me in any way.
My mum’s decision cost us $80, 0000 in legal costs. It completely destroyed our family that both my sister and I exited at the completion of the court case. All mum’s friends that had their wills with the Public Trustee changed them after witnessing the handling of mum’s estate. 10 years later, I’m now starting to recover from this experience and would NEVER recommend anyone leaving their will with the State/Public Trustee. Here’s some advice that will hopefully help you to avoid similar experiences:
· TALK to your family, friends and above all a solicitor handling estates about the State/Public Trustee
· SEARCH the internet for other complaints about this organisation
· BELIEVE all that you’ll hear/read
· DON’T get sucked in by the promise of a free will, it will cost your family dearly. DO ask for EXACT costs of all of their services. You’ll soon see that they are much higher than elsewhere
· DO remember that these people are PUBLIC SERVANTS and that your beneficiaries won’t be able to get help anywhere, should they encounter problems with the Public Trustee. Do you really want them to go through what our family went through?
· If you are ever unfortunate to have any dealings with the Public Trustee, DO start selling or taking whatever you can out of the estate BEFORE they take possession of it. They’ll take their time in doing so, best to sell/divide whatever you can before they take over. Unless specified in the will, be prepared to be offered PURCHASING items from the estate, at inflated prices
· If you are already having problems with this organisation, contact your local MP for help. Also the Attorney General in your state. Put pressure on them, even though the Public Trustee reports to them. The media is another option. Last but not least, do try to organise a Royal Commission into the workings of this organisation. I’d be happy to contribute my evidence
Most of all, save yourself and your family soul destroying problems and STAY AWAY from the Public Trustee. DO make a precise will through a solicitor and a trusted public servant such as your doctor, etc. Best to leave all family members out of the execution of your estate and let them enjoy their inheritance. Thanks.