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.