Public Trustee returns focus to core functions

Changes in consumer needs and getting back to its core business has led to the Public Trustee to amend the way it delivers services covering the making of Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said that from July 1, the Public Trustee will only provide Will and Enduring Power of Attorney making services to those South Australians with a concession or who are subject to protection orders issued by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or administration orders appointed by the courts.

“South Australia is one of the only jurisdictions in Australia that provides this service for free,” Ms Chapman said.

“And, currently, around 40 per cent of the Wills prepared by the Public Trustee are either subsequently withdrawn or revoked by living customers who either go on to prepare a new Will or Enduring Power of Attorney or revoke the documents prepared by the Pubic Trustee.

“While this change is occurring, we do realise there are people in the community who simply can’t afford or otherwise access these services.

“This is why those on a concession can still access these services free of charge.”

Concessions include those with a Pensioner Concession Card, Gold Card from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), War Widow, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and also those who receive Centrelink payments for Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance, Youth Allowance, Partner Allowance and Parenting Payment.

Existing customers wishing to update their Will or Enduring Power of Attorney or new customers wanting to create a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney (regardless of their concession status) may do so before June 30 this year and remain eligible for estate finalisation services provided by the Public Trustee in the future.

Attorney-General Chapman said that the Public Trustee is currently working with the Law Society of South Australia and other service providers on referral options for people who don’t hold a concession card or who are not subject to a SACAT protection order who seek to access these services after July 1.

“There are many private sector Will and Enduring Power of Attorney making providers in the State and the Public Trustee will assist to direct non-concession holders to those services from 1 July as needed,” Ms Chapman said.

“I have been working with the Public Trustee and the Law Society to utilise their referral system to connect those requiring a will with a lawyer able to provide that service.

“The Public Trustee will communicate these changes to customers, including through direct mail and their website, with full details about other legal options,” Ms Chapman said.

Ms Chapman said it was vital for the Public Trustee to get back to its core business as a trustee, an executor, a guardian and administrator.

“In 2017 the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption evaluated the processes at the Public Trustee and made recommendations on how it could more effectively provide its core functions,” Ms Chapman said.

“This change is consistent with that ongoing approach to ensure the Public Trustee focuses on its core functions of providing services as a trustee, an executor, a guardian and administrator.

“The Trustee oversees over $1 billion worth of clients assets, which is a huge task in administering. Such vital work should be the focus of the Trustee, without broader services potentially impacting this work.”

The Public Trustee will be contacting all clients who are affected by these changes over the next month, however should any current clients have a concern, appointments can be made by contacting the Public Trustee on 08 8226 7423 or, for people living in regional areas, 1800 673 119.