Talk to your family about estate planning

Sometimes difficult conversations are also the most important.

No matter what stage you are at in life, having a Will and estate plan as well as sharing the documents’ intentions with your family is an important and selfless act for those you love.

As more of us are catching up after long absences apart, families will be reconnecting with loved ones and spending quality time together.

This provides an opportunity to start the conversation about your estate and planning for providing protection and support for yourself and your family in the event that something happens to you.

While it may seem difficult to begin with, communicating your wishes and having a legal plan, is the ultimate expression of love. Unfortunately, without any plans in place, your loved ones may need to coordinate a court or tribunal to appoint someone to make decisions for you.

Discussing your plans in a loving and supportive environment with those closest to you, together under one roof, will ensure they understand your position and will also empower you to determine what your legacy will be.

A comprehensive estate plan considers what happens in the event of both death and disability. When preparing estate planning documents, you need to appoint people to take on vital roles for you. Often loved ones are unfamiliar with these tasks and will need professionals such as the Public Trustee or a solicitor to perform the legal and administrative tasks.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to your family members and make sure they understand what is involved and what role (or roles) they may be willing to take on.

Being an executor of a Will can be a complex and time-consuming task. Many people appoint a friend or relative as a way of acknowledging their respect or admiration for that person. However, being left with the burden of administering a loved one’s estate can be a distressing task during a time of grief. Are your loved ones willing or understand the role you are asking them to do?

If you lose decision making capacity due to an accident or illness, an enduring power of attorney names a trusted individual or organisation, such as a family member of friend or the Public Trustee, to manage your financial affairs. Without this document, the control of your affairs is not automatically assigned to your spouse or loved ones, and therefore they may be left without the ability to access your finances or even sell jointly owned assets.

An enduring guardian appoints someone to make personal and medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and lose the ability to make your own decisions. This document is especially important if you have specific wishes about your medical care and who can make decisions on your behalf.

Taking the first steps towards a conversation about estate planning will give you peace of mind and put your loved ones at ease knowing what their responsibilities are and how they can honour your legacy. 

By preparing your Will and estate plan you can also save your loved ones the burden of dealing with courts or tribunals and know that your estate and affairs will be managed in accordance with your wishes.

It is never too early to start the conversation, but it might be too late.

To make an appointment to prepare or update your Will, enduring power of attorney or an enduring guardian, contact the Public Trustee on 1800 068 784 or visit www.publictrustee.tas.gov.au