Public Trustee vs.
Estate Planning Lawyer:
Understanding the Key Differences

In 2022 a Four Corners investigation rocked Queensland as it exposed a series of alarming practices within the Public Trustee. The report highlighted exorbitant fees, questionable financial decisions, and the detrimental impact on individuals who sought assistance from this trusted institution. With the shocking revelations brought to light by the Four Corners report the Queensland government ordered two separate investigations into the Public Trustee’s operations. At the time of writing this blog in June 2023, there has been no news of forthcoming legislative or regulatory change. Rather, the Public Trustee has publicly pledged to enhance their support by improving communication and delivery, and implementing these changes through internal training.


According to the Four Corners report, among those affected by the Public Trustee’s actions were individuals like Chris Pearson who suffers from a memory disorder and found himself $1 million worse off after being under the Public Trustee’s financial management. Despite expressing his desire not to be in a nursing home, Mr Pearson was charged approximately $250,000 in nursing home fees. Another distressing case in the report was that of Peter Ristic, who incurred over $59,000 in fees, including $14,000 in “realty fees” to manage bushland worth only $20,000 in total.
Contrary to popular belief, meeting with the Public Trustee for their Will drafting service (which they call their ‘community Wills service’) is not akin to engaging a legal practice. The Public Trustee service offers a one-hour appointment with a staff member trained in Will preparation. This differs greatly to a meeting and strategy session with an estate planning lawyer with years of education and experience. Additionally, recent recommendations for the Public Trustee to charge for Will-making services may impact their “free” offering in the near future.
Engaging a reputable estate planning firm provides distinct advantages. Our practice offers heart-to-heart initial consultations, delving into your financial situation, family dynamics, and desired outcomes. We provide tailored recommendations and explore with you the various options and strategies aligned with your specific goals. Post consult, our written advice summarizes our meeting, details your options, and offers our recommendations for your estate plan. We provide complete estate plan solutions with a suite of documents and client resources – far beyond the offering of the Public Trustee.

While the Public Trustee promotes its free Will-drafting service, it is important to delve deeper into the true cost implications for those who engage their services. During the Will-drafting meeting, the Public Trustee offers their executorial services, with the fees charged for these services aimed at offsetting the costs associated with Will-making.

The Public Trustee argues that they are well-suited to act as executors, citing their experience, independence, impartiality, compassionate staff, and competitive rates. However, these claims stand in stark contrast to the findings of the 2022 exposé and feedback from legal professionals who have witnessed the handling of estates by the Public Trustee. It’s important to note you are under no obligation to nominate the Public Trustee as your executor by using their service, and you may choose to nominate a different executor if you wish.


Engaging the Public Trustee’s Will-making service may be suitable in specific circumstances. If your family and asset structure are genuinely straightforward, your Will goals are basic, and you approach the service with caution, it may be a viable option.

However, it is crucial to recognize the inherent challenge of assessing the complexity of your own situation without the expertise gained from years of legal education and experience. “You don’t know what you don’t know” aptly captures the predicament, as understanding the intricate web of legislation, case law, and practical application of succession law in Queensland is no easy task.

Impartially evaluating your family dynamics, asset structuring, and estate planning goals to determine their true simplicity can be highly challenging. Without knowledge of the diverse range of strategies available in estate planning and how they can be tailored to your specific needs, it’s difficult to ascertain whether a simple Will truly represents the most effective strategy for your estate.


In light of the Four Corners report and the risks associated with relying solely on the Public Trustee, it is essential to consider seeking professional estate planning services. By entrusting your estate planning journey to a reputable firm, you can ensure an incomparable level of care, attention to detail, and expert advice. Don’t settle for a mere “tin of tuna” when you deserve a fulfilling “chef’s banquet” for your estate planning needs.

Remember, estate planning is a complex and sensitive matter, and seeking professional assistance is a prudent step towards securing your future and the well-being of your loved ones.

Ensure your legacy is protected. Click “Request a Booking” to schedule a consultation and let us help you create a customised estate plan that reflects your wishes, safeguards your assets, and protects your loved ones.

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