Understandably, many people don’t like to turn their mind to preparations in the event of their death. However, just as you would take out a home or car insurance policy against an unfortunate event, your Will is an important step in planning. Estate planning. Although we may not be able to control the event, we can plan to have some control over the outcome following. Think of it as responsible legal housekeeping. Why would you leave what happens to your assets and treasured possessions, attained over a lifetime, to chance? A professionally drafted Will that is appropriate to your particular circumstances can also save a lot of stress and heartache for your family and other loved ones left behind. Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard enough without the added difficulty of having to address that loved one’s legal affairs left in disarray.
GENERAL POWERS OF ATTORNEY – may be appropriate in circumstances where you are going on holidays or otherwise unavailable to attend to certain matters and you wish to appoint a person or persons to make decisions for you in your absence. The nature of those decisions and the time frame that power is granted can be particularised to suit. For example, your house is on the market and you are going for a trip overseas where contacting you may be difficult. You wish to appoint someone to deal with your property sale specifically and that decision making power is to end upon your return.
ENDURING POWERS OF ATTORNEY – essentially enduring powers of attorney are utilised to appoint a person or persons to make financial and/or personal decisions for you in the event you do not have capacity to make those decisions yourself. ‘Financial decisions’ meaning all decisions about your finances and assets including for example selling your home or other property, paying your mortgage and other bills, arranging for and calling in any insurances or superannuation entitlements, attending to your taxation obligations, investing and arranging for your ongoing financial needs. Banks, superannuation trustees, Centrelink….most organisations will not communicate with loved ones or family members trying to deal with your affairs on your behalf when you do not have capacity (whether that be temporarily or permanently), unless they have the appropriate authority. Enduring Powers of Attorney can ensure they have that authority when YOU need it. ‘Personal decisions’ refer to decisions such as where you live ie supportive living arrangements/aged care, down to the smallest of issues such as what podiatrist or hairdresser you attend. Akin to say a guardian of a minor.
A common misunderstanding is that these documents are not needed until one is in their elder years. However, they are important for every adult – whatever their age. Who would make decisions for you if you suddenly suffered a stroke or other condition affecting your cognition such as Alzheimers/Dementia; or if you were involved in a car accident leaving you with an acquired brain injury? It can happen to anyone, at any time. It is not pleasant to think about, however best to have these documents ‘in place, on the in case’.
An appointed Medical Treatment Decision Maker can consent or refuse medical treatment on your behalf. To the extent possible, a Medical Treatment Decision Maker must aim to make the same decision you would have made for yourself based upon your preferences and values regarding treatment. Who you would trust to take on that role if and when needed is an important and personal decision.
In assisting your Medical Treatment Decision Maker/s and medical treatment providers, you may also wish to create an Advanced Care Directive to more specifically spell out what you would and would not want in terms of your medical treatment. Let me help walk you through the process and your options.
Are you an appointed Executor or next of kin? The existence of an Original Will, a copy only, or the absence of one at all, will dictate the type of application (be it for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration etc – collectively referred to as ‘Grants of Representation’) that may need to be made before a deceased Estate may be administered to its beneficiaries. Depending upon how the deceased’s Estate was structured, an application for a Grant of Representation may not even be necessary, however there may be other legal housekeeping matters which need be attended to. It can seem confusing and tedious. Let me help explain and navigate you through.