The Ombudsman Commission Helps Secure Estate for Beneficiaries

On 3 March 2022, the Ombudsman Commission received a Complaint regarding the alleged delay in the transfer of the title for a deceased estate and overcharging of administrative fees by the office of the Public Trustee of Papua New Guinea.  It was alleged that the Office of the Public Trustee had charged excessive fees and had delayed the transfer of a title of a deceased estate to the beneficiaries.

The investigation was carried out pursuant to Section 219 of the Constitution and section 13 of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission and it was an administrative investigation made against the Office of the Public Trustee of Papua New Guinea.

During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that a letter of administration (LA) was granted by the National Court to the Public Trustee to administer the estates. It was also revealed that the title of the estate had joint tenants where the complainant and her children are joint tenants of the estate.

The Public Trustee confirmed that the delay was not caused by his office but it was caused by the Department of Lands and Physical Planning especially the office of the Registrar of Titles who failed to register and transfer the title to the new tenants.

On 23 May 2022, the Public Trustee presented the title of the estate to the Complainant at its Head Office at Level 4, West New Britain Haus, Port Moresby. 

The Public Trustee in presenting the title mentioned that charging of application fees depends on a case-by-case basis and on the time frame and the nature of the estate and that the fees are charged in accordance with the provisions of the Public Curators Act 1951 and the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1966 these being the laws which allow the Public Trustee to charge Commissions and administration fees when dealing with deceased estates.

On 23 August 2023 the Public Trustee provided further explanations on the administrative fees charged to the Complainants and stated that his office had wrongfully applied 10% Commission Fees to the cash assets of the deceased when they would have applied 3.5% Commission fees which they confirmed was excessively charged and the funds will be reimbursed to the Complainant accordingly.

On 7 December 2023, the Complainant advised the Commission that she had collected a Bank Cheque from the Public Trustee’s office as reimbursement of the extra fees paid to the Public Trustee and the funds were then deposited into the respective bank accounts of the beneficiaries. This effectively settled the issues that the Ombudsman Commission had investigated.

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