Good cheap fast service: is there such a thing?



The sign says:

We offer three types of service:

Good/cheap/fast – you can pick only two

Good cheap service wouldn’t be fast

Good fast service wouldn’t be cheap

Fast cheap service wouldn’t be good.

I thought of this sign when I considered three recent decisions where the service wasn’t fast. The first involved the estate of Evelyn Dempsey, who died in England in 1982. Evelyn Dempsey was intestate in relation to one half of the residue of her estate. Distribution of the moveable property in that estate depended on her domicile at her death. If she was domiciled in Queensland at death the potential beneficiaries were cousins. If she was domiciled in NSW the intestate estate was paid to the Crown as bona vacantia. If she was domiciled in the UK the position was not clear, even after 34 years. The court found that Dempsey wasn’t domiciled in the UK. However, it required the executor, Perpetual Trustee Company Ltd, to make further enquiries to enable the court to decide domicile between NSW and Queensland. So it is 34 years and counting.

In comparison to the Dempsey estate, the administration of the estate of Jan Szczudlik has been speedy. Szczudlik died on 16 January 1992. Twenty three years later, the Supreme Court made orders enabling NSW Trustee & Guardian to distribute his estate. Part of that lengthy delay was due to Jan Szczudlik dieing without a will. Although he was domiciled in NSW at his death, he had been born in Poland. He had also lived in Germany, Italy and Victoria. As administrator of his estate, NSW Trustee & Guardian had to enquire into whether Jan had ever married or had children. That meant enquiries in each of those jurisdictions. Once it was satisfied that that probably hadn’t happened, it had to establish the death of Jan’s parents. It had to establish whether he had siblings, whether they were living and, for those who had died before Jan, whether the siblings had children. Initially the estate was paid to NSW Treasury as unclaimed money. In 2003 one of his siblings notified NSW Trustee of his claim. From then it was only 12 years to administer the estate! (That part of the delay is not so easy to explain!)

Beverley Hancock’s estate had a different type of delay. Beverley died on 23 June 2006. She left the whole of her estate to her husband, Bill Hancock. On 11 September 2013, which was nearly six years longer than was then allowed, her daughter of an earlier relationship, Donna-Lee, made an application for a family provision order out of her mother’s notional estate. Her procrastination was unrewarded – she lost the application and was ordered to pay costs. But the circumstances resemble a Shakespearean plot. With brevity which does not do justice to the full story: after her mother’s death, Bill relied on Donna-Lee for assistance and favoured her with gifts and loans. This ended when a girl friend of Donna-Lee, Rebecca, who Donna-Lee introduced to Bill and championed to him as an employee, married Bill! It was only after that, when Donna-Lee was no longer needed to assist Bill and did not receive his favours, that she brought the application against her mother’s estate.

I’ve no idea if there was cheap service provided by the executor and administrator in the first two decisions. I doubt that it was totally good. But I’m certain it wasn’t fast.

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