As we start checking items off our “to-do” list in the lead up to Christmas, like purchasing presents for the kids or grandkids, getting the house ready for relatives to visit, and making sure everything is in order before heading off on that much needed vacation, it can be a good time to ensure your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney documents are up to date and you and your family are protected, explains Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills and Estates Department Manager, Donna Tolley.
Just as it is important to make sure your car is serviced before heading off on the family road trip or double-checking your insurance cover just in time for the Summer storm season, it is imperative to ensure your most basic legal affairs are in order, including having an up to date, legally valid Will, and an Enduring Power of Attorney.
As we prepare for the Christmas break, our estate planning lawyers continue to take appointments to draft Wills, Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointments of Enduring Guardian, Advance Health Directives, and Binding Death Benefit Nominations for clients who want to take this opportunity to get their estate plan in order in time for Christmas. By putting a proper estate plan in place, you can begin 2022 with peace of mind in knowing if the unexpected happens, you and your family will be covered. It is expected that the opening up of all states and territories from the COVID-19 lockdowns will result in a dramatic increase in travel and movement of families going on that long-awaited holiday. Our roads have been relatively quiet during the lockdowns and various agencies are tipping a bumper holiday season, with people desperate to get away and enjoy the festive season.
Top 5 reasons everyone should have a Will
- Preserve your wishes
When you write a Will, you get to have your say about what happens to the assets you have worked hard to earn over your lifetime. You can choose to leave gifts to your family, friends, and to charities or other organisations that you want to benefit from your estate. During this time of year, we often are inspired to give to charity and help those less fortunate than ourselves. Giving to charities or making a bequest in your Will can be a wonderful way to help a charity you feel strongly about and to leave a lasting legacy.
- Funeral instructions
You can give instructions for your preferred funeral arrangements in your Will, including whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated, and where you want this to take place. If you have any other specific requests for how you want your loved ones to celebrate your life at your funeral, you can note these in your Will. Your Will is the first place your loved ones will reference after your passing to determine what your wishes are so that they can follow your instructions.
- Plan for complex family and financial circumstances
You may have complexities to consider in your personal and financial circumstances. It is more common today for people to have blended families or complex family dynamics to consider. When you have your Will drafted by an experienced estate planning lawyer, they can take a look at your specific circumstances and tailor-make you a Will that reflects your family dynamics, the assets you own, and your testamentary intentions. Circumstances that may be considered complex can include if you intend to exclude someone who would usually expect to inherit from you, if you have a previous marriage and other family complexities, if you have a child who has special needs and you want to factor these when leaving assets to your beneficiaries, or if you have a self-managed superannuation fund.
- Appoint a guardian for children and document your wishes for their upbringing
When you write a Will, you can nominate a guardian to care for your children until they are adults. You can document your wishes for your children including where you would like them to live, who you would like them to see, instructions relating to their education and any other extra-curricular activities you would like them to be involved with. You can also document key values or traditions you would like them to have. All families are different, and it can be extremely helpful to your surviving family members to have these types of instructions available after you are gone, not to mention the comfort for you to have peace of mind in knowing that your intentions for your children are clearly documented.
- You decide who will step into your shoes and look after your affairs
Naming an executor to administer your estate after you are gone is a very personal and important decision. Without a valid Will, you won’t be able to choose who you want to take on this role. In the absence of a Will, a court will choose who manages and distributes your estate. This is a position of power and it is important to ensure you select the right person for the role. When you write a Will, you can consider who to appoint and ensure that the person you choose to take on this responsibility is someone that you trust and someone you feel has the skillset to be able to manage your estate effectively. By appointing an executor in your Will, you can also consider your family dynamics and make sure you choose someone that has a good relationship with your beneficiaries or the ability to remain neutral to minimise the risk of disputes arising over your estate.
Top 5 reasons everyone should have an Enduring Power of Attorney
- You decide who will act for you
An Enduring Power of Attorney is a position that carries enormous power over your personal, financial and medical affairs. After all this is the person who will be making decisions for you in the event you lose capacity to make decisions for yourself. When you appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney, you get to choose someone that you trust implicitly and who has the ability to manage your affairs in a responsible way, the way you want them to! Without an Enduring Power of Attorney, if you were to lose capacity, your loved ones would need to apply to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to be appointed as your guardian. This can be a stressful and long process. QCAT or NCAT may also decide to appoint the Public Trustee to manage your affairs in the absence of an Enduring Power of Attorney.
- Avoid stress and delay
When you have an Enduring Power of Attorney, it means that who you appoint as your attorney is able to step in and continue managing your affairs immediately. This means that your attorney can continue paying your bills, making medical decisions for you related to treatment or living and care arrangements, or manage your investments or properties without delay. Without an Enduring Power of Attorney, your loved ones will not be able to access your bank accounts or make any decisions without first going through the stressful and potentially expensive legal process to become your administrator.
- Choose who manages what
You can customise your Enduring Power of Attorney so that you appoint the most suitable person to manage the related tasks. You may choose to appoint different attorneys to make different decisions based on who is most suitable, for example you may choose to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs and a separate person to manage your medical affairs. This allows for flexibility and proper safeguards in the types of decisions your attorneys can make. You can also put checks and balances in place to ensure your best interests are protected.
- Taking care of business
If you own and operate a business and you become incapacitated, it is important to authorise someone you trust to be able to continue operating the business. From accessing bank accounts, accepting payments on your behalf, to signing contracts and helping with day-to-day operations, by having an Enduring Power of Attorney, you can appoint someone you trust to act for you and keep your business operating. It is important to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced estate planning lawyer as you may require a different type of power of attorney or succession plan to ensure your business has the appropriate plan and provisions in place.
- Ensuring your children are looked after
As we previously mentioned as a top reason to have a Will, deciding who to look after your children can be one of the most important decisions you make before you die. Something many people with young children do not consider is what will happen to their children if they lose capacity to continue to care for them. From decisions around school and education, to medical providers and day to day care, it is important to document your wishes about who has legal authority to act on your behalf when taking care of your children if you become incapacitated.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers remains open throughout the festive season
This can be a very busy time of year; however, it can also be a great opportunity to tick off the things you did not get to over the past 12 months and review important legal documents before the new year rolls in. Our estate planning lawyers have available appointments throughout December and January to help you write your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney and get your estate plan done.
You can book an appointment online now to have your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney prepared and signed prior to the Christmas break or just give us a call – we are working up until Christmas eve and are only closed on the public holidays over the break. Please get in touch with us today to secure your appointment!
With one of the largest and most experienced Wills and Estates departments in Australia, it is our intent to help you plan for the future and preserve your wishes.
Your documents will be prepared by an experienced lawyer who practices exclusively in this complex area of law and who will take a holistic approach to ensure your estate planning needs are met.
Doing late night shopping at Robina Town Centre on Thursday night? You can make an appointment with one of our Robina estate planning lawyers Thursday nights and Saturday mornings!
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