If you name a friend or family member as executor, they may be willing to do the job for free. But there are still likely to be some costs that have to be met, such as High Court fees for applying for probate. You can specify that these costs are to be met by your estate.

Trustee companies

If you choose a trustee company as the executor, it will charge for time plus disbursements such as court filing fees, photocopying and postage (see our table). By law, trustee companies are limited to charging a maximum fee of 5 percent of the gross value of your estate.

The Public Trust estimates the cost of administering a simple estate (a $300,000 house in joint ownership, personal savings of $50,000 and a life insurance policy of $100,000) to be $3800 plus disbursements. Another $375 would be payable if the surviving partner asked the Trust to transfer the joint home into their name.

Company Fees  
  Will Administering an estate
Guardian Trust Minimum $184 ($276 for a couple).

$1150-$3450 base fee (depending on estate value) + $782-$920 for probate + $207-$402.50/hour (depending on complexity) + disbursements.

Perpetual Trustees Up to $2300 for Safeguard Plan (individual plan that includes preparation of will and powers of attorney). $575 base fee + $575-$805 for probate + 2.75% on first $600,000 of gross assets then 1.5% thereafter + disbursements. "Flat" fee of 5% for estates under $50,000.
Public Trust $195 if named as executor and trustee. Otherwise $295. Simple wills can be made free online. (a) $1450 establishment fee + $775 for probate + $220-$285/hour (depending on complexity) + disbursements.
Trustees Executors $170 ($280 for a couple). (b) $1150 for probate + $287.50/hour + disbursements.

Guide to the table
Companies were four trustee companies; we did not survey law firms. Fees are at August 2012 and include GST.

  • (a) = people on low incomes who meet eligibility criteria can have wills prepared free.
  • (b) = fee for simple will; wills can be offered free if you’re doing other personal business with Trustees Executors.

Lawyers

Like trustee companies, lawyers' fees for estate administration can be based on an hourly rate, a task-based rate, a percentage of the gross value of the estate or some combination of these methods.

A 2009 survey by Validatum, a law-firm pricing consultancy, found fees based on time only or a percentage of the gross value of the estate only produced the lowest costs. Validatum's Richard Burcher says firms that use a pricing method of either time plus a percentage of the estate or task-based pricing plus a percentage of the estate invariably produced a higher fee. Reflecting different pricing methods, Validatum's survey found costs for administering a complex estate ranged from $4425 to $16,235.

Before you sign up, you're entitled to ask what the lawyer's fees are likely to be and the scope of the work that will be undertaken. Lawyers must provide you with information in advance about the basis for their charges.

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