‘Delayed and Confused’

James’ mother passed away in 2009. Her only asset was a half share in the family home. James’ father continued to live in the family home up until July 2016, when the home was sold.

James was a beneficiary of his mother’s estate. He was entitled to the sale proceeds when the family home was sold.

A trustee company was administering James’ mother’s estate. The house was sold and funds were available in July 2016, but funds weren’t paid to James until April 2017. James had several complaints with the trustee company’s services.

James made a complaint to the trustee company, but after a month the complaint was still unresolved. James then brought the complaint to FSCL.

 

The complaint

James was unhappy with the trustee company’s fees. The fees started out at a reasonable $305, but seemed to be increasing each year.

James was also unhappy with the service he’d received from the trustee company. He had made several requests for information from the trustee company, and his emails would often go weeks without being acknowledged. James felt this level of service did not justify the fees charged by the trustee company.

 

Trustee company’s response

When we first contacted the trustee company, it maintained it had dealt with James’ requests quickly and efficiently. However, after going back and reviewing the file, the trustee company acknowledged that there were significant delays between James’ requests and their responses.

The trustee company explained the increase in fees – the statements James was looking at were showing the accumulation of fees charged over the years, not the fees for each year. The fees had stayed at around $300 per year.

 

Outcome

The trustee company accepted it hadn’t provided its usual level of service, and its delays in communicating with James were not acceptable. The trustee company apologised, and offered James a $1,850 reduction in its fees.

James accepted the trustee company’s offer. He accepted the trustee company’s explanation of the fees, and considered the apology and reduction in fees were an appropriate remedy for the delays.

 

Our insight

Delays happen. Sometimes an estate simply can’t be administered as quickly as you hope. But its not acceptable for the administrator to keep beneficiaries in the dark. If you are a beneficiary dealing with a trustee company, you should expect reasonably prompt replies to your questions. Administrators should acknowledge your requests, and provide timeframes for their response.