Frequently Asked Questions
The Public Trustee speaks with many groups and individuals who are trying to understand more about the services provided by the Public Trustee’s Office. The questions included on this page are the ones that get asked most often at these events.
Does the Public Trustee only help seniors?
No, the Public Trustee protects the interest of all vulnerable residents of New Brunswick who are not capable of managing their own affairs, either because they are under the age of majority or because they suffer from a mental incapacity arising from disease, age, accident or some other cause, or because they have died without a Will or an executor.
What if I suspect a senior is being abused by their family? Can the Public Trustee help?
The Public Trustee does not investigate suspected instances of abuse. If you suspect abuse of a senior, contact the Department of Social Development to report the situation. Click here for information on adult protection.
I understand that I can appoint the Public Trustee as executor of my estate. How does this work?
Yes. The Public Trustee may be appointed executor under a Will. Most people appoint their spouse, an adult child or trusted friend. Some people do not have anyone to act as their executor and may prefer a professional administrator such as a trust company or the Public Trustee. If you are considering appointing the Public Trustee as executor, please contact us to discuss whether the Public Trustee is an appropriate choice. The Public Trustee needs to give written consent before being named as executor under a Will.
My brother disappeared a few weeks ago. He went fishing by himself and hasn’t been seen since. I suspect he may be dead. He has bills that need to be paid. His car has been recovered by the police and I know he has money in the bank. The police say they’ve done everything they can. What should I do?
If there is sufficient evidence that a person is dead, the court may issue a Presumption of Death Order. Otherwise, if a person has been missing and has not been heard from by relatives or others that are usually in touch with him, the Court may appoint the Pubic Trustee or another suitable person as committee of the missing person’s property. You should seek legal advice as to whether the Court might issue a Presumption of Death Order or appoint a committee to take care of your brother’s property.
Will information about a client’s estate be disclosed to others?
No. All client information is confidential. In some cases, if a client’s best interests would be served, the Public Trustee does exercise discretion to release information to close family members. No information about a client’s affairs is ever given to the general public or released for research purposes.
Are there any charges for the services of the Public Trustee?
Yes. Under the Public Trustee Act, the Public Trustee may collect fees for its services from the client’s assets. The amount of these fees is set by provincial law.
Does the Public Trustee collect money payable to clients?
Yes. The Public Trustee collects wages, pensions, disability payments, Workers’ Compensation payments, annuities, mortgage and agreement for sale payments, investment income, rents and legacies. The Public Trustee will apply for and collect any social benefits the client is entitled to receive.
What happens to clients’ assets?
Individual bank accounts
If the client is likely to be incapable for a long time, usually the bank accounts are closed, and the proceeds credited to the client’s account with the Public Trustee. Occasionally, accounts are maintained at the bank or frozen, until the client recovers the ability to manage his or her affairs independently.
Joint bank account with another person
Joint bank accounts are frozen, and the money may be placed in the client’s Public Trustee account. The money will be held until an agreement about the ownership of the fund is reached.
It is credited to the client’s account with the Public Trustee.
Contents of safety deposit box
These are listed and, in the majority of cases, removed and placed in safekeeping in the Public Trustee’s office.
Investments are evaluated and either held or sold, depending on whether the client is likely to recover fairly quickly, whether cash is needed, and what the risk level is for the particular investments. Highly speculative securities may be sold to prevent loss if the market falls.
If a client owns a home and is likely to return to it, or has dependants living in the home, every effort is made to retain it. If the client’s stay in hospital is expected to be short, and there are no dependants in the home, it will be secured but may be left vacant. All this assumes that the funds are available to
meet taxes, mortgage expenses, repairs and other expenses connected with the property. If funds are not available to pay expenses, or if it is expected that the person will never use the property again and there are no dependants in the home, it will probably be sold. However, there is an exception to this. When a client specifically leaves the property to someone in his or her Will and has the funds to maintain the house, the property may then be kept for the intended beneficiary. If the property is put up for sale, every effort is made to get the best price and terms. Most properties are sold after an appraisal and listing by an agent on the multiple listing service. The client’s closest next of kin, if known to the Public Trustee, are consulted before the sale of property. For clients who were living in rented accommodations, the same process applies. Depending on the client’s condition and his or her available funds, arrangements can be made to pay the rent and maintain the premises. However, if the Public Trustee thinks it advisable, the lease may be terminated.
Furniture and other personal belongings
If clients are likely to return home, their furnishings and other non-perishable belongings will be maintained in the home or in storage, if more appropriate. If a client is likely to remain incapable and will not need the belongings, they may be sold at public auction and the proceeds credited to the client’s account. The Public Trustee will not be responsible for any personal property kept in the client’s possession.
Vehicles depreciate very quickly and the cost of adequate storage mounts rapidly. Unless there is very good reason for storage, cars generally are sold at public auction as soon as possible.
Will the Public Trustee consult with the client and next-of-kin concerning the client’s assets?
Yes. The Public Trustee’s policy is to involve clients and their families in disposing of major assets and sentimental items. This is subject to a client’s ability to understand, the interest and availability of next-of-kin and business circumstances. There may also be cases where there is such disagreement within a family that the Public Trustee must make a decision without family input.
Can a client’s family take over and use his or her assets?
No. Clients’ assets belong to them, and the fact that clients may be unable to use their assets does not transfer their right of ownership to others.
What happens if the Public Trustee sells real or personal property that a client has left to someone in his/her Will?
The Public Trustee will only sell real or personal property that is referred to in the Will if it becomes necessary to use the proceeds to support or maintain the client.
What happens if a client does not have enough money to pay for ongoing expenses and to cover past debts?
Each case is unique, but the current well-being of clients and meeting their immediate needs takes priority. Often, Trust Officers will contact creditors to reach agreements to suspend further interest charges and/or set up a payment schedule that the client can afford. In rare cases, the Public Trustee may file for bankruptcy protection for a client.
How is budgeting conducted for clients?
Trust Officers prepare annual budgets for clients and, except for special encroachments, maintain spending within the budget guidelines.
Will a client’s surplus funds be invested?
In most cases, cash held on behalf of a client is deposited in the Public Trustee’s common fund, where it earns interest and is completely fluid. The common fund is invested in government bonds of varying maturities. The Public Trustee receives advice from its Investment Committee about bond purchases for its common fund.
Is interest paid on client accounts?
Yes, interest is paid to each client’s account monthly.
If a client has made investments during his or her lifetime, will those be kept if the Public Trustee becomes involved?
A client’s incoming investment portfolio is carefully evaluated by specialized investment staff. Investments are maintained or sold according to the client’s needs. Consideration is given to whether cash is needed, and the risk involved with each investment. Highly speculative securities may be sold to prevent loss if the market falls.
What happens if a person who becomes a client has not filed past tax returns?
The Public Trustee’s accounting and tax specialists will file any outstanding tax returns for a client. Any refunds received are credited to the client’s account, and any amounts owing are paid if the client’s funds permit.
Does the Public Trustee provide personal care to its clients?
No. The Public Trustee delegates the day-to-day responsibility for personal care of its clients to the manager of the Regional Health Authority where the client lives. A community mental health worker, social worker, home care coordinator or other appropriate person is assigned to oversee the personal care of the client. In some cases, when the client lives in a personal care home, the personal care will be managed by the personal care home, without the involvement of a regional health authority. In all cases, the Public Trustee maintains the ultimate responsibility for making decisions.
How does the Public Trustee provide informed consent for a client’s medical treatment?
When asked to provide consent for a client’s medical treatment, the Guardianship Officer carefully considers the following:
- Is the client capable of giving informed consent?
- Did the client express his or her wishes while competent?
- Did the client make a Living Will and appoint a Power of Attorney?
- What is in the client’s best interests?
- What are the wishes of family?
- What are the risks versus benefits of treatment or no treatment?
In some cases, the Guardianship Officer consults with the office’s legal staff and/or management in making the decision. Each time a request is received for medical consent, the case is examined individually, and consent is not always given.