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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Public Trust Office

Public Trust Office

The Public Trust Office was constituted by Act of Parliament in 1872. It was the world's first institution of the kind, and other States in the British Empire have taken New Zealand's office as a model for similar beneficial enterprises.

The Office is designed mainly to afford, at low rates of commission, a secure and convenient recourse in any case where a person residing either in New Zealand or abroad desires to draw a will, form a trust, or appoint an executor, trustee, agent, or attorney in the Dominion. The Office aims also to relieve those who, for various reasons, may be unable or unwilling to commence or continue the administration of trust property to which they may have been appointed.

The Public Trust Office commenced operations in 1873, at the end of which year 257 estates, of a total value of £17,500, were being administered by the Office. Since then there has been a practically continuous increase in both number and value of estates administered, the records at March 31, 1939, showing 19,244 estates of a value of £61,715,713.

New estates which came into the Office during the year ended March 31 1939, numbered 3089, and represented a value of £6,314,532.

The following is a brief summary of some of the principal functions of the Office:—

The Public Trustee—

  • Prepares and revises wills and holds them in safe custody, free of any charge, if appointed executor;page 61
  • Acts as executor and trustee under a will, either alone or in conjunction with advisory trustees;
  • Acts as trustee under wills or trusts in place of private trustees who may wish to retire from the office of trustee;
  • Acts as administrator of estates of deceased persons who have not made wilIs, the trouble and expense of finding sureties thus being avoided;
  • Administers the estates of mental patients for whom private committees have not been appointed;
  • Acts under the Aged and Infirm Persons Protection Act as manager of the estates of persons who are unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to take care of their affairs;
  • Acts as trustee under marriage or other settlements;
  • Finances estates under his management to avoid the realisation of assets at disadvantage;
  • Grants loans on town and country properties at lowest current rates of interest;
  • Acts as agent or attorney for absentees;
  • Administers unclaimed lands and unclaimed property;
  • Acts as sinking-fund commissioner for local authorities.

During the year ended March 31, 1939, 4919 wills were deposited with the Public Trustee, and 2241 were withdrawn on account of the death of the testator or for other reasons, the net increase for the year being 2678. The number of wills on deposit at March 31, 1939, was 93,152.

In addition to preparing wills in the first instance, the Office affords its clients special facilities for the revision of existing wills to provide for changes desired by them. During 1938-39, 3991 wills held on behalf of testators were so revised.